Strictly speaking this isn’t about participatory medicine, but it is about being an empowered consumer of care. There are several dimensions to empowerment, including (but not limited to):

  • Knowing what you want
  • Recognizing whether you’re getting it
  • When you’re not, speaking up about it – courteously, when you can.

You know real change is happening when the world becomes ready to hear it, and respond. So I’m thrilled about today’s Empowered Patient column by CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, Would Your Doctor Pay for Wasted Time?

She writes about doctors who are now paying patients if they have to wait too long! It’s a glimpse of a world that’s almost unimaginable: healthcare delivery that works smoothly for everyone – the providers and the patients and families they serve.

Boeing employee Elaine Farstad spent two extra hours waiting, and sent the doctor a bill for her time – and they paid it! (I can hear the screeches of alarm across the country as I write this…) Several doctors offer gifts or cash.

The column has several what-to-do’s, including a link to the doctor list at the Ideal Medical Practices Organization, which encourages its doctors to be on time.

(By the way, this isn’t just a “be nicer to patients” issue – I think a root cause of our problems in healthcare is that it’s the only industry I know where the definition of quality doesn’t start with “What does the customer value?” I’m not saying that being on time will cure cancer, or anything like that – I’m saying, my gut says good and valuable things will happen if we make customer service a priority in healthcare. Cohen links to an episode in my own life two years ago, and in that case the hospital actually listened and changed their practices, because they “got” that they were inadvertently not valuing patients’ time. Hooray!)

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