If My Doctor Used the Baldrige Criteria, I’d Have a Flu Shot by Now

Posted by Christine Schaefer

I recently went to my primary-care doctor to get a flu shot. Before venturing out for a very dissatisfying office visit, I called ahead to confirm that such shots are available on a walk-in basis. (I was put on hold twice to learn that simple fact, foreshadowing my experience at the office.) After arriving and completing the check-in process, I waited for nearly an hour without further communication from any staff member. By the way, the check-process took at least 20 minutes, even though I’m not a new patient, and there was only one other patient in the room, already checked in, when I arrived.

My wait surely would’ve lasted longer, but given my native impatience, I got up to ask the receptionist the reason for the long delay, especially considering that I didn’t need an appointment. She appeared to have forgotten why I was there—and next, I learned that the office was actually out of flu vaccine!

This blog is not meant to be a rant about the poor customer focus of one medical practice, however. Instead, I want to share the epiphany I had during my wait for the elusive flu shot: the Baldrige Award is so much more meaningful and indicative of true excellence than some other accolades for organizations. And that’s because the Criteria and award evaluation process are comprehensive and based on a systems perspective of organizational performance. You see, I noticed my doctor’s office continues to be adorned with prestigious commendations the practice has received, in particular, being named among the region’s “Best Doctors.” My awareness of that reputation was part of what drew me to the practice several years ago. And yet the recurring office-management-related problems I’ve experienced there have prompted me to look elsewhere for a better-run practice. Lest anyone think I’m being too harsh or that my expectations are unfair, consider this: all three patients who came through the waiting room for regular appointments while I was sitting in vain for a flu shot ended up complaining to the receptionist about administrative issues, too.

Given my familiarity with the rigorous assessments of an organization’s performance for the Baldrige Award, I am practically itching to introduce my doctor’s practice to the Baldrige Health Care Criteria. (Had I waited much longer, I might’ve developed stress-induced hives, providing an opportunity for me to tell a nurse that only the office’s use of the Health Care Criteria could cure me.) Seriously, I am convinced patients of that practice could benefit significantly if the organization were to adopt the multidimensional Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence rather than measure its performance more narrowly, for example, tracking only its doctors’ care ratings. After all, had I seen a Baldrige Award plaque on the wall, I trust I would have received a flu shot by now.







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6 Responses to If My Doctor Used the Baldrige Criteria, I’d Have a Flu Shot by Now

  1. Gary Simon says:

    My normal (efficient) flu shot program at the University of Delaware was canned this year, so I resorted to getting mine at a local pharmacy. Longer wait times and ineffiencies ensued. I can’t imagine the total populace faring much better, which is probably why we now have an epidemic!

  2. Jan Englert says:

    It is amazing in this environment that you didnt CONTRACT the flu waiting for your flu shot! We are imminently engrained in our own processes and because healthcare “customers” have been conditioned to wait, we will … but I predict that our instant messaging, texting kids and grandkids will transform this process by not being available for the “waiting room” and by a demand to be notified when their “turn” to be seen is imminent. I cannot imagine any future generation waiting 2 hours anywhere for much of anything unless it happens to be coffin selection…. 🙂

  3. Richard Ward says:

    Please, do start seeing another doctor without first informing your current doctor about the office staff. He needs the feedback.

  4. Paramjit Singh says:

    Baldrige award program criteria are for organizational excellence.I don,t think these can be applied to practices run by doctors. While your experience was bad, this can happen anywhere. The best thing the clinic should do is to let the patients know if they are out of the vaccines.

  5. LSSMaster says:

    I agree with the above comments. As a consultant (Lean/SS), I consider my time to be valuable (yes, as valuable as a physician ). So, when I found myself waiting over 2 hours to be seen by my primary care provider ( I am a patient of this practice and had made the appointment months in advance), I simply submitted an invoice for the time I waited in the office. I charged them for “professional services” – I was evaluating their inefficiencies, after all. Not suprisingly, they were so poorly organized that I received a check a few weeks later. I took the uncashed check back to my physician, who is a personal friend, to demonstrated how poorly organized his staff really was. We are now working on implementing systems to satisfy the Baldrige Criteria……..

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