Start Your FREE Membership NOW
 Discover Proven Ways to Be a Better Medical Office Manager
 Get Our Daily eNewsletter, MOMAlert, and MUCH MORE
 Absolutely NO Risk or Obligation on Your Part -- It's FREE!

Upgrade to Premium Membership NOW for Just $90!
Get 3 Months of Full Premium Membership Access
Includes Our Monthly Newsletter, Office Toolbox, Policy Center, and Archives
Plus, You Get FREE Webinars, and MUCH MORE!

How one irritated patient can start a social media firefight

By Lynne Curry  bio

Here’s the scenario: One of your physicians considers himself “a law unto himself.” When an employee or patient protests how he treats them, he wastes no time telling the employee or patient why they are wrong or where to find the exit door.

You’ve tried for years to get this physician to take it easier on people. No such luck. You’ve begged the other partners to help you rein him in. They smile, but shake their heads, not willing to risk the battle. Further, given the problem physician’s unique skills, the others don’t want to lose him.  

Instead, one by one, other physicians start taking the perks this physician enjoys. Others agree to shortchange mid-level clinical staff when dividing profits. Gradually, more of the physicians begin treating patients like they exist to serve the physicians. Over the years, your practice’s culture changes for the worse.

The egg cracks the day your newly hired front desk person tells a social media savvy, impatiently-waiting patient that she’d been instructed to tightly book patients so the physician never has to waste his time when patients arrives late. Because she’s had this explained to her by the physician and accepted it, she doesn’t realize how to sounds to the patient.

“But his schedule’s always backed up,” the patient says, frustrated. “My time is worth money too.”

“It’s how we do things here,” your front desk person explains, not realizing when the patient turns on her Smartphone recording.

“What exactly does it mean that this is how you do things at ____ medical practice?” The patient asks.

“We schedule patients so the physicians don’t have ‘down time,'” your front desk person says.

“And if this leads to backed up schedules, it’s the patient’s problem?”

“Well, if patients can’t wait, they can reschedule,” responds your staff member.

The frustrated patient leaves, and ramps up her Twitter and Facebook accounts. She tweets what she’s recorded, using a hashtag along the lines of #DrThinkHe’sMoreImportantThanPatients. The tweets go viral. A local newspaper and talk radio station pick up the story, and the patient goes on the air, naming your clinic.

Consumers have and use a powerful megaphone

Think it can’t happen? It can and will. We live and work in an era of social media savvy patients and former employees, where even the mighty bow their heads after a media firestorm. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially praised his employees for following the company manual after learning security had dragged a passenger from the flight. CEO Munoz didn’t think he needed to apologize to the bloodied passenger or his horrified fellow passengers, and instead regretted that United had to “re-accommodate” customers, clearly torturing the meaning of the word “accommodate”. It took United’s loss of $800 million in corporate value to induce Munoz to actually apologize. 

Passengers, tired of being herded like cattle on and off flights, quickly developed new mottos for United, from “United puts the hospital in hospitality” to “We treat our passengers like baggage.” Thousands of passengers now book future travel on any airline “other than United.”

Address issues before they become a bigger problem

Medical offices share the same risks airlines face. How many patients do you know who seethe when forced to wait more than fifteen minutes to be seen? How many patients wait thirty or more minutes, to enjoy a doctor appointment that lasts less than seven minutes? What would it take to have egg cracked for your practice?

The solution? Present your managing physician and partners with the cold, hard facts, showing what United and other corporations targeted by social media fueled anger face. Then, show your partners how inexpensively they can change your practice’s culture to one that satisfies patients and employees. Ice the cake by outlining to them the productivity differences between inspired and dissatisfied employees and the productivity, time and money costs involved in replacing employees who leave.

Place signs in the waiting room asking patients to “please tell us if you’ve been waiting more than fifteen minutes.” Refine your scheduling procedures and enlist your mid-levels in the effort to make fifteen minutes the maximum any patient waits, barring emergencies.

Train your front desk, billing and other staff to give patients exceptional, respectful service, and reward them for doing so. Regularly reach out to your employees through surveys and inspire them with training and team-building.

In short, reshape your practice’s culture to immune from social media negativity. You’re wondering, of course, what to do about your problem physician. Initially the other physicians didn’t see him as their problem.  Now perhaps they do because his behaviors stick out like a sore thumb—and a risk factor.

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. She regularly consults with medical practices and hospitals in a wide variety of areas. You can reach her at, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10, or read her articles at

Editor’s picks:

What is the ‘patient experience’ like at your medical practice?

When you’re about to lose patience with a patient

Patient self-scheduling offers advantages for busy medical practices









Try Premium Membership