“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”. The words of Charles Dickens from his enduring novel, A Tale of Two Cities, echo throughout the decades and remain relevant to the modern world including the international medical travel sector. Never before have patients and consumers had such advanced medical technology and scientific knowledge available to provide the best treatments and cures. Yet millions go without any access to medicine or healthcare services. People place their faith in the ability of modern medicine to save or extend life yet false claims of miracle treatments are part of the global landscape. Those who can afford care are spoiled for choice. Those who cannot afford care are sick or die.
Many in the medical tourism sector are working hard to improve access through increased affordability, expanded options, new treatments and cures. More people received medical care than any other time in the world’s history. For those of us living in the world today, medically speaking, these are the best of times. Competition for patients and customers is growing while consumers demand a better healthcare experience. Some providers fulfill those great expectations, others fail bleakly.
While in Part 1 of this three part series, the focus was on the worst of healthcare times, this article explores the best of times through my eyes as a patient and consumer. The tale continues…
The best of times
Before the visit
Having recently relocated to another city, it was time to find a local dentist. A Google search of “digital X-rays” plus the town name produced three names. I did a further Google search on each of the three names to learn about their education, years of experience, advanced training, and other details including whether any complaints had been filed with the dental board of registration. Confident that any of the three could provide good service, I decided to call all three to engage in comparison shopping.
I called the first name and was told, “The dentist is not taking any new patients.” A message was left for the second dentist with a request for a return call. No return call was ever received. The telephone at the office of Dr. Carton*, the third dentist, was promptly answered by a friendly voice who introduced herself as Karen. I explained that I would be a new patient needing a routine dental examination and cleaning. We fixed a day and time for the appointment and then she asked me how I heard about their office. I explained my Google search to her and she thanked me for calling. Very nice!
One week before the appointment, I received a text message reminding me of the scheduled day and time. Another text message arrived the day before the meeting confirming the appointment. I considered myself sufficiently reminded and appeared on time the next day.
Checking in for the appointment
As I walked through the front door, I was immediately greeted with a smile and “You must be Elizabeth”. After being warmly and sincerely welcomed to the office and filling out the necessary forms, I was invited to sit in the waiting room. It was filled with comfortable living room chairs, coffee table books on a variety of subjects, a large bowl of ripe apples, hot and cold drinks, and, thankfully, no television. Brochures on dental topics were available for perusing. Pleasant music was softly playing. I could hear voices in the treatment rooms mingled with laughter. People were enjoying being at…a dental office! Very nice!
Dental treatment and more
No sooner had I sat down, then a woman in scrubs appeared from the treatment area and she called my name. She introduced herself to me as Lucie, Dr. Carton’s dental assistant. I was invited into the modern, clean, and well- maintained treatment room where the digital X-rays were taken. The X-rays popped up on the computer screen which Lucie turned towards me and she explained what she saw, reassuring me that it all looked fine but that Dr. Carton would take a look at the X-rays and my teeth after the cleaning.
Before starting to clean my teeth, Lucie asked me if, for a small extra charge, I would like to have a hand paraffin treatment to help me relax. Given the cold weather outside, I eagerly accepted, although a bit surprised by the offer of a spa treatment in the dentist’s office. With my hands dipped, waxed, and wrapped, I settled back into the chair while Lucie chatted and worked at scraping and flossing away the tartar. When she finished, the hand treatment was removed and my skin was silky smooth and warm. Very nice!
When she was finished, it was Dr. Carton’s turn to complete the examination. He came into the treatment room, introduced himself, asked me the correct pronunciation of my name, repeated it to me correctly and then talked with me for a few minutes to get to know more about me, putting me at ease by speaking of his daughter’s upcoming wedding. It was an excellent way to establish a connection between doctor and patient. Very nice!
After reviewing my X-rays and having a look at my teeth, Dr. Carton complimented me on my excellent dental health and thanked me for becoming a new patient. He looked forward to seeing me again in six months.
Checking out and paying the bill
Lucie and I said good-bye to each other and I returned to reception to pay the bill. Like most Americans, I do not have dental insurance so I paid for my dental care from my own funds. Karen promptly prepared my bill, asked if I was satisfied with my visit, and processed the payment. As I got ready to leave, she handed me lip balm with the name and contact information of the dental practice on it and a long stemmed red rose, – gifts to thank me for my business. Very nice!
Successful relationship building
Within one week of my office visit, I received a hand written “Thank you” note from Lucie, saying, “It was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you for choosing us for your dental care. Keep smiling!”. Simple, to the point, and very nice!
Since then I have returned to Dr. Carton’s office and have become a regular patient, receiving the same considerate and personal treatment. While I do believe that I am receiving quality dental care, I am certain that I am being offered an excellent patient and consumer experience. A long stemmed red rose is handed to me each time I leave the office. Very nice!
The overall experience offered by this local dental office is a model for creating loyal patients regardless of the type of services provided or the location including a well trained staff who have excellent telephone and interpersonal skills; an atmosphere designed to make the patient feel at home and relaxed; and several ways to thank people for their business. In terms of clinical care, the office was clean, comfortable and well-maintained; offered state of the art technology; the services were performed carefully and thoroughly; and as the patient, I was engaged in the process by reviewing my own X-rays and encouraged to ask questions about any dental topic. These elements combine to make a recipe for success.
In the third part of this three part series, the issue of patient versus consumer will be explored. What responsibilities are owed to patients? Consumers? Can an individual be both at the same time to the same provider? The next article is coming soon.
“He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service
of the heart.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
*While the information reported in this and the prior article are based on my actual experience, the names of individuals are changed to protect their privacy.
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