Outpatient Customer Service Surprises


You’ve heard me whining about my back and hip problems — well, maybe not that much as I don’t like to whine in public. Turns out I have a herniated disc and an inflamed piriformis muscle. Let’s just say together they make one big “OUCH!” The doctor recommended an epidural steroid injection (ESI).
Since all this happened on Friday and the doctor does injections only on Fridays, I managed to get an appointment for the injection late Friday. But I had no idea it was more involved than a standard cortisone injection, which happens in the doctor’s office. I went home and researched ESI on what little information I had.
I realized it was as much work as an endoscopy. No eating or drinking, involves anesthesia through sedation, and an xray to ensure the doctor inserts the needle in precisely the right place between L4 and L5 (bottom two lumbar vertebrae). He had to do it twice because of the thinning disc between the two vertebrae.
Had to show up 1 1/2 hour early (yuck) to register. Well, I limped and followed the signs to registration only to find I went to the wrong desk. I needed to go to outpatient registration. Never saw separate signs for that. A worker retrieved a wheelchair and took me to the right desk.
The woman at the registration desk was a delight and worked smoothly through the paperwork. As soon as we finished, she called the patient area and the nurse arrived within five minutes — wow! No long wait. The long waiting came in the preparation and going into the surgical room — but that was expected.
In the prep room armed with a bag full of magazines, I looked around the room reading the signs on the wall. The first one I noticed asked, “Tired of us asking the same questions over and over?” “Good! That means we’re doing our job!” The gist of the sign was that asking repeatedly questions wasn’t a sign of one hand not knowing what the other was doing — but to make sure they had the right patient, the right procedures, and the right notes such as what medicines was the patient allergic to.
That sign earned my respect and provided comfort. Instead of aggravation when asked the same question, I felt safe and secure. Several other signs posted on the wall had similar information. What a great way to to be proactive with patients already grumpy from not eating and drinking and having to wait.
The nurse updated me throughout my process in the prep room. She also announced whenever she was about to do something such as take my vitals and put in the I.V. Ack! I saw the I.V. was going into my hand. Arm — no problem. Hand and wrist area… problem due to bad experience when I was 14 (let’s just say both wrists turned into pincushions).
She talked through the I.V. insertion process including cleaning it and verifying I wasn’t allergic to latex or iodine (another safety check). She did a beautiful job with the needle that I barely felt it. Bless her.
The procedure was supposed to be at 4:30pm, but I didn’t go in until 5:00pm. I knew it wasn’t the doctors’ fault because they were in the staff area. They were probably waiting on the surgical room’s availability — something I wish someone had let me know about. The was the only complaint about the whole service — not bad!
My husband had to chauffeur our kids after dropping me off, so he couldn’t get there until near the end of my stay. The staff had no problem reaching him and bringing him to where I was after the procedure.
I have to go through this again in two weeks. I can only hope the staff I get will be as wonderful as this one especially the nurse who will insert the I.V. (the hardest part about the whole thing). I share this because it shows great customer service is possible even in an industry bogged down with paperwork, strict procedures, and insurance pains.

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