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  • Rhett Parsons

Medical Garage

I recently took my car into the shop for some routine maintenance including a brake job, tire rotation, and oil change. I have a highly qualified mechanic that I knew would do a good job. The service desk did a great job setting up the appointment but when I got there at 1 PM I was told they were running a little behind, but it shouldn’t take too long, so I waited. An hour later I saw them pull my car into the bay, but it sat there for another 40 minutes before the technician opened the hood to get started. Once the work was started things ran smooth and a couple of hours later they called my name and said everything was done. This garage collects a down payment when you check-in and then bills you for the balance, so I got my keys and headed off. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I received an invoice from the garage for the use of the bay, an invoice from the brake pad manufacturer, an invoice from the oil supplier, an invoice from the oil filter supplier, an invoice from the assistance the drove my car into the bay, an invoice from the mechanic that did the breaks, the one who changed the oil, the one who rotated the tires (all specialists of course), and lastly an invoice from the company that supplied the air that went into the tire that was low. I am sure everyone reading this has had the exact same experience with your local garage, right? OF COURSE NOT! This is a terrible, frustrating customer experience and an absolutely ridiculous scenario, agreed?

Obviously, this did not happen, and if it did I would never return to that garage again (nor would you), the experience would be untenantable. In reality, the garage provided great service, they were more or less on time, and they took the car back and did the work. When they were finished, I paid ONE invoice for all the work completed. Unfortunately, not all industries seem to understand this basic element of customer service.

Imagine the scenario outlined above, but apply it to a hospital setting instead of a garage. Suddenly, it feels much more familiar. After a hospital visit it is not at all uncommon to get invoices from almost every person or department you encounter; the ER, the ER doctor, the x-ray company, the radiologist the reads the x-ray, the specialist that checks you over, etc. Some will say that insurance is the reason for the medical billing process, but I find that hard to believe. Some say the system just forces this, but I call bull! This is just plain bad customer service that we are expected to put up with. A hospital or care facility could, if they really cared about customer experience, simply create one clear invoice and handle the internal accounting like every other business does, internally. The bottom line is they don’t care about the customer experience and this convoluted system increases our medical cost and adds overhead to the process every step of the way.

I firmly believe that the United States has one of the best medical systems in the world and I am thankful for the great care my family and I have received over the years. However, I have found that the idea of customer service is often very different than patient care. Our medical professionals: doctors, nurses, therapists, and aids usually deliver high-quality care and are focused on the wellness of the patient. However, I don’t find that this quality transfers to the customer experience side of the profession. It seems as if the customer experience expectations we have for almost every other product or service we use are somehow disregarded when it comes to medical care.

I am sure there must be a hospital or medical practice out there somewhere that has realized how frustrating this process is and has taken the responsible action of simplifying this and sending just one clear and understandable invoice. If a few major hospitals would start taking customer service seriously and focus on improving the customer experience others would be forced to join the movement. While this is certainly not the norm in the medical profession, it is just good common sense!

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