Certainly this is will be a wake-up call for many practitioners who didn't think they had to care about such issues, as long as their diagnoses, prescriptions, and referrals were medically justified.
"There is a deep sickness in the way care is delivered in many practices, and the source of this sickness is that consumers are not just free to change merchants because of crappy service," says e-Patient Dave deBronkart, a patient advocate, who after surviving stage 4 cancer decided to work toward improving care from the patient's perspective.
"Supposedly, as the reform legislation roles out, it will get easier, especially if it's easier to take records with you," deBronkart says. Some healthcare systems like the Cleveland Clinic are now offering same-day consults in any specialty, an expanding trend that will allow patients more opportunities to "vote with their feet."
The angry Facebook thread also made me wonder whether the satisfaction or frustration these patients will relate, in larger patient populations, might somehow translate to their outcomes of care. Does a good patient experience encompassing engagement with the physician, courtesy by the receptionist and maybe even parking validation, mean the patient will get better faster, avoid hospitalization?
And conversely, might a long wait or perceived slight signal disrespect that the patient absorbs and perhaps in some subtle, indirect way translates to a poorer health outcome?
"Your instincts are on target," says Gordon Moore, MD, a family practitioner and fellow with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement who specializes in care measurement, patient experience, staff satisfaction, and their relationships to outcomes and cost.