Yesterday I called Continental Airlines to see what I could do with an unused ticket. They told me there was going to be $150 change fee, plus the difference in fare.
The new ticket was less than the old ticket (thank goodness), so after paying the fee, they told me there was another “booking service fee” of $15. Huh? That is like paying for gas and then paying extra for using the pump.
Thank you sir, may I have another…
Later the agent explained that the ticket was non-refundable, non-transferable, blah, blah, blah. They also mentioned I could only fly on certain days of the week, blah, blah, blah again. The agent’s list of restriction was so long, I basically started tuning out and all I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher.
It was as if they were saying “… Oh, well, you didn’t fly when you told us you would fly so you are going to have to pay an outrages penalty. Don’t think you can fly whenever you want. You fly when WE say you can fly. And yeah, you bought a ticket, but it’s not like it is yours to give to anyone. And don’t think you are going to ever get your money back if you are dissatisfied, had a bad flight or simply decided not to go.”
But that is not enough “… because you are talking to an agent and making a reservation over the phone, we are going to charge you another $15.”
Was I being punished?
What does this have to do with managing a practice?
It got me thinking… do medical practices punish patients, our customers? Do medical practices impose ridiculous rules and penalties on patients?
What about charging for No Shows? Is that a penalty similar to the airlines’ infamous change fee? What about when a patient leaves the medical practice, are we penalizing the patient by charging them to make a copy of their medical record?
This is how I see it and you can tell me if I’m crazy. Let’s start with no-shows.
Yes, no-shows are a loss. But what is the real intention of imposing the no-show charge? Trying to teach the person a lesson by punishing them with a fee?
Seems to me that if you have no-show problem, no-shows are not the problem. In other words, your problem is that too many people are missing appointments. Why? Instead of focusing efforts on collecting for no-shows, focus on finding out why patients are missing appointments.
Besides, is one really recuperating the loss of the no-show by collecting a fee? Is it worth the effort?
It seems to me educating patients the importance of keeping appointments is more valuable than collecting for no-shows.
Let’s tackle copying charts
I conclude there are two reasons why a patient leaves a practice:
- Patients leave because they have to. They have a change of insurance, they move, they found something more convenient, closer, better, etc.
- Patients leave because they are dissatisfied. In essence the practice has done something to piss them off, so they’ve decided to move on.
If a patient leaves because they have to, then why should they have to pay for their records? It is not really their fault. After all, it is their records. And even if they refuse to pay, one can’t withhold the records. Yes, I know it takes time to prepare the records, copy them etc. But how much more time is spent trying to collect the $25 bucks?
If a patient leaves because they are dissatisfied, why do I want to piss them off even more by telling them they have to pay for their records? I suggest cut our losses and move on. We can’t win them all.
Besides, how often does one prepare records? If copying records is taking too much of my staff’s time, then again, there are bigger problems. Instead of trying to collect for my staff’s time to prepare records, I ought to spend that energy and time figuring out why there are so many requests for records.
I understand some times there are good reasons, good explanations, good excuses to charge. But the challenge here is not to criticize people that charge for no-shows (I’m merely giving you reason why in our practice I don’t think it is a good idea), but rather look at our practices differently in order to provide a better service to our patients. Ask yourself, is there good reason for this charge? What is the real intention? I’m I doing this because it is necessary or do I just want to teach people a lesson?
What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree? Are there other ways you’ve seen others punish patients? Maybe filling out forms that truly are not necessary? Charging them for school physical forms?
I’m I wrong? Am I looking at this the wrong way?
What are your thoughts?