It’s a Monday. Drinking my coffee and in my email is the weekly update from mdwebpro.com. There is a new listing on one of the MD rating sites. I groan inwardly. By working hard to maintain patient-physician partnerships it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing it’s possible to please everyone. When staying abreast of new developments in one’s profession and practicing evidence-based medicine where it is appropriate, one thinks the bases are covered. Staying on time in order to avoid wasting my patients’ time is a priority. Encouraging patients to use exercise and dietary changes to control and reduce the development of life-threatening illnesses isn’t what every patient wants to hear though. And let’s face it, I am human. Sometimes when I see patients, it’s with exhaustion. Sometimes it’s necessary for me to get to a meeting or go home in time to take care of something. None-the-less I try very hard not to allow my impatience to show in the exam room, that’s unprofessional. But this morning there is the knowledge that patients generally don’t post online reviews unless they are unhappy gnawing in my brain. Sometimes I ask patients to review us, but I haven’t done that recently. Indeed the review is terrible. I recognize the name of the individual who posted it and am somewhat surprised. They’ve been a patient for 10 years. It is a sad commentary on our medical relationship that after knowing someone for 10 years there isn’t enough of a comfort level to bring concerns to me instead of writing it in public. I look at the interaction in the EHR. Nothing jumps out at me, it was not a day I was rushed, there was discussion about an unexpected medication cost. What am I missing? How did the interaction go badly and I missed it? My office manager will reach out to the patient and ask questions. Hopefully this will improve our care (the staff was rude too, according to the review, so that may have set the stage for my failure).
Intellectually I know that the great majority of my patients are satisfied with my care (we’ve done a variety of surveys that tell me that). As written above, it’s important to me to deliver competent care that includes partnering with patients to ensure that their questions and needs are addressed. I think I’m doing the best that is humanly possible and recognize that the human element ensures that I will sometimes fail—despite knowing all this my sleep will be interrupted tonight.
And I guess that’s OK. That’s how we improve our skills.