Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why the Golden Rule is Really, Really Important

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Today's post is about the Golden Rule and why treating others as you would like to be treated can affect both your professional life *and* you personal life.
I recently had a situation in my office that I thought could have been handled a lot better and I wanted to share it here as well as let you know the outcome.  Hopefully this provides some good information for a lot of you (especially you doctors who read the blog).
The story goes like this:
A few weeks ago I had a patient come into the office for a routine recare and exam.  Now in Missouri, where I practice, it is legally acceptable for a patient to not receive an exam every time they present for a prophy.  As long as the patient has received an exam in the past 12 months there is not a legal reason for an exam.  However, as long as I'm in the office, I like to perform an exam every 6 months.
The day this situation occurred, it was pretty crazy busy in my office.  I like to run on time.  I don't wait well when I'm on the receiving end of the waiting game and consequently I don't like to keep people waiting either.  When we have  our morning organizational meeting, I pride our office on discussing how we can stay on task and on time.  It's a source of pride for all of us.
However, every once in a while things just get crazy beyond our control.  Perhaps someone shows up late or maybe an unforeseen complication arises during a procedure.  We try to plan for these things, but you can't always prevent everything.
So, on this particular day we had a couple of complications that prevented me from being on time.  I don't like it when these things happen, but it is my responsibility to deal with the complications and  provide the very best treatment that I can… even if that means running behind schedule.
Sarah, one of my wonderful hygienists, called me to do an exam.  However, I was not at a place in treatment that I could get up and walk away.  We told her it would be a few minutes.  Unfortunately "a few minutes" became about 15 minutes.  When I finally did get to a point I could  go to do the check, I found Sarah, but no patient.  The  patient is also a healthcare professional and Sarah  said her patient had to go because they needed to get back to see their patients.  
I felt awful about making them wait and especially the chance that I put them behind in seeing their own patients.  I immediately called the patient's office. I got voicemail, but I left a message apologizing for the delay.  I never heard back, but I hoped the message portrayed how badly I felt.
Today the patient returned for some treatment.  As I entered the treatment area I immediately said, "I owe you an apology for making you wait last time."  I was greeted with a smile and a laugh.  "Oh no you don't," I was told.  "Our office has been having some problems recently with staff and others not communicating and not treating patients with respect.  I played your  voicemail to them and told them "This is how a *real office* takes care of these things."
I was stunned.  What had been bothering me as an example of treating a  patient poorly had been used as an example of what to do when things don't work out (which will happen from time to time).  By treating someone the way I would want to be treated, I managed to turn a bad situation into a good one as well as providing some potential practice marketing as well.
You never know how things will turn out, but your odds are better if you use the Golden Rule.

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