Heart Surgery, Thomas Edison, and Customer Service. | Bruce Turkel

My son had a heart procedure a few weeks ago (he’s doing just fine now, thank you). Because my wife had worked as a CCU nurse, she researched Danny’s condition and potential practitioners. Together with our cardiologist, they chose Dr. Interian, the doctor who invented the procedure Danny needed.
As I told my son, having Dr. Interian perform this surgery would be like having Thomas Edison over to change our light bulbs. After all, who could be more qualified than the doctor who both invented the procedure and performed it thousands of times?

About an hour after they wheeled my son into the operating suite a middle-aged man in green surgical scrubs stood at the door of the waiting room and asked if I was “the father.” I nodded and he told me they were ready to start.

“Who are you?” I asked. He hadn’t bothered to introduce himself.

He looked at me like I was something he was annoyed to find stuck to the bottom of his shoe. “Dr. Interian. The surgeon. I met your wife. I’ll talk to you after the procedure.”

I went back to waiting, joined by Danny’s good friends Angie, Mari, Stephanie, Eric, and Jay, who had come to visit.

A few hours later, the surgeon came out, told me Danny was fine and that I could see him in 10minutes.

An hour after that I asked the receptionist when I could see my son, she said it would be another half an hour. When I mentioned I was told I couldsee him in 10 minutes over an hour ago, she laughed and asked, “Who told you that, the doctor? They have no idea.”

Finally I went to see Danny. In the recovery room I mentioned to the nurse that the doctor had told me he’d come talk to me but we hadn’t spoken. The nurse was aghast and went to fetch him.

“What do you mean we didn’t talk?” the irritated doctor said when he popped in a few minutes later. “I already told you everything was fine.”

“I want you to tell me more about the procedure,” I said. “What you found, what you did, what happens now.”

He looked incredulous. “I’ll discuss it with you when you have eight years of education,” he snapped.

I looked at him, turned to look at my son who was lying on the gurney with tubes coming out of his arm and machines beeping around his head, and decided the best thing to do was to take a slow, deep breath and walk away.

Now some of you might think that I’m being petty to complain about the doctor’s behavior. After all, what I wanted from the surgeon was an optimal outcome, and that’s exactly what I got. His lack of bedside manner and common courtesy was beside the point.

But it my mind it was bad customer service, bad manners and very bad form. And if I marketed health care for a living (oh wait a minute, I do) I would be really unhappy if one of my docs treated his patients the way I was treated.

The experience reminds me of my wife’s favorite joke:

Q: What’s the difference between God and a surgeon?

A: God doesn’t think he’s a surgeon.

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