Fibromyalgia and your Doctor’s Customer Service


I can count on my hands the number of doctor’s appointments I’ve had in the last decade that were unrelated to my fibromyalgia.  So, when I got back to work after lunch Wednesday and a reminder appeared on my screen for a doctor’s appointment in 30 minutes, I was nearly giddy.  I almost felt like a normal person.  The sort who only goes to the doctor when something out of the ordinary is going on.  The sort who only has a follow-up to make sure the unusual condition has run its course or responded to antibiotics or whatever… NOT the sort who goes to the doctor to change what is ordinary for them to a more-comfortable, less-painful ordinary.

Before I continue with my story, I should explain:

During October and November I had this funky airway spasm thing going on.  Sometimes when I took a breath I’d choke on the air and be left gasping.  A nurse practitioner in my doctor’s office put me on an inhaler (that I swear did nothing), but as is often the case with “normal” people (I presume), the annoyance ran its course and I can now breathe deeply and consistently without the aid of an inhaler.

Enough boring, useless details; back to the story…

So, I went into the appointment thinking we’d discuss my airway.  And we did.  But lucky for me, my doctor’s office has this nifty new process I really appreciate.  When the nurse comes in to get your pulse, blood pressure, height, weight, and whatnot, they hand you a piece of paper with a few simple questions.  I don’t remember the specifics, but it was something like this:

  1. What is the one thing you cannot leave today’s appointment without addressing?
  2. What symptoms are you experiencing?
  3. Are there any other questions you have for the doctor?
    1. Referrals
    2. Prescriptions/Refills
    3. Other

There was at least one other question, but I cannot remember what it was.  Anyway, I was thrilled.  All too often I leave an appointment only to realize, a few hours later, I forgot to ask a few questions or get a referral.  I scribbled down the answers to the first two appointment-pertinent questions.  Simple enough.  The final question was another story… and I’ll discuss it in the next post.  But for now, I’m sticking the questionnaire.   I am thoroughly impressed.

I thought perhaps the paper would be used to focus the appointment and prevent patients from piling all their medical issues into one appointment.  Maybe the kind nurse was, in fact, a security guard tasked with limiting access to my doctor. Maybe she was going to politely read my answers and then invited me to make an additional appointment for each answer to the aforementioned questions #3.  I really had no idea what to expect.  But I was still excited they’d prompted me to remember what I would otherwise forget.  (Remember, we’ll get back to questions #3 in the next post.  Trust me, you’re interested.)

Luckily the kind nurse was not a security guard, nor was she at all interested in what I wrote on my questionnaire.  Fantastic!  My doctor, despite all the lame-o stuff going on in the medical industry, is improving his already superb customer service.  He (or the powers that me) has added a process to promote customer satisfaction and bring routine and focus to his appointments.  I hope/bet he is able to accomplish more in a day.

And, If nothing else, I left the doctor’s office feeling proud of my doctor and grateful for his willingness to recognize that (despite the necessity of his job) he’s still in a service industry.  Way to go Dr. Arkins!  It’s doctors like you who make patients with chronic conditions still feel human.

So, fibrofolks.  Are you doctors beginning to implement a similar process?  Beyond the typical “And what are you here for today?”  I am curious if this level of customer service is becoming the norm.

Come back in a bit for Fibromyalgia and your Doctor’s Customer Service, Part 2 (or Trying Stuff: The Rhapsody Bed by Tempur-Pedic)

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