Everyone has a patient (or two) that makes you cringe when you see their name on the schedule. Your entire staff dreads their arrival and is uneasy during their visit. As you spend time anticipating the worst interaction with this person, ask yourself “is it really worth it?”
Let’s look at how this type of patient can affect more than you may realize.
It has happened. You ask yourself, “Has it been a year already?” Ms. Dolly Difficult is on the schedule again. You roll your eyes. A few memories run through your mind of prescription remakes or patient refunds. Your entire staff has this uneasy feeling about Dolly’s appointment. Everyone can sense that trouble is on the way.
In any negative situation, the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual encounter. There is a lot of, “Ms. Difficult will probably say this…” or Ms. Difficult will definitely do that…”. What a waste of time and brain power! Wouldn’t it be better to identify early on that not everyone on earth is put here to be your favorite person?
However, Dolly Difficult is coming. So, you just say to yourself, “We will just push through it and it will be fine.”
The Actual Visit
The day has come and Ms. Difficult arrives for her visit. “Ugh…” Your front desk person paints on a fake smile and greets Dolly. As the insurance benefits are gone over with her, Dolly complains that her vision plan won’t cover her visit for her red eye. Finally, she reluctantly agrees/understands that they will need to pay her thirty dollar medical insurance copay instead of her fifteen dollar vision plan copay. Okay. Battle one: complete!
Now, the patient is in the exam room and complains about every part of the exam. Dolly is irritated that the doctor took too long to come into the exam room and also lodges a complaint about the rude front desk person making her pay her medical copay. Finally, the exam is finished and you did your best to appease this Ms. Difficult. Battle two: complete… “Whew!”
Ms. Dolly Difficult is in the dispensary now. Your best optician is tasked with helping her pick out her new glasses. Dolly asks “Why don’t you have any frames that look like this?” and “I really want a small frame.” Your optician says, “Ma’am, it would be best to select a frame that has a larger space for your progressive lens. We have several frames that I think you will like.” After a long conversation and endless explanations about B measurements, the frame is selected. There is another scuttle about the price of the lenses and why her vision plan won’t cover the entire cost. She pays and is finally out the door. Your entire staff breathes a sigh of relief. Battle three: complete.
After the dust settles, your optician says, “Dolly will be back in a week to pick up her glasses.” …everyone cringes. Wait a minute! Why would anyone go through this? You may think it is just part of doing business. It may be true that not every patient interaction will be amazing, but there is something you can do about the “Dolly Difficult” in your office.
The Parting of Ways
Firing a patient sounds pretty harsh. However, it really might be better for everyone involved. Ask yourself, are you really giving this patient the best care they could be receiving? Especially when you dread even speaking to them?
When a person makes your entire staff miserable, it is time to part ways. Not only because of the time spent anticipating the patient’s visit, but because no one should be given a free pass to come into your business and make you miserable. Sometimes people don’t get along and that’s okay. It is much better to recognize it and have a discussion with the patient.
The discussion might be another cause for anxiety. Not everyone enjoys confrontation. The way to handle “firing a patient” is to be calm, concise, and direct. It is very important not to leave any room for misinterpretation. Here is an example: “Ms. Difficult, it seems like you don’t enjoy visiting us. We have decided that it would be best for everyone if you found an optometrist that would be a better fit for you. Thank you for giving us a chance to take care of you and I hope you find someone that you enjoy visiting.” It’s that simple.
The Dalai Lama said, “Although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you can suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.” The key is that you must respond. Doing nothing will bring more of the same.
Having that conversation will not only rid you of your “Dolly Difficult”, but it will also take the pressure off of your staff. Hostile patients can be awful to deal with and can slow down productivity immeasurably. One simple conversation can save you time, money, and sanity.