Scheduling a doctor’s appointment at your primary care clinic is daunting as is. The harder part comes when you’re lying uncomfortably on the examination table, listening to pens click, clipboards clack, phones ringing off the hook, and let’s not forget the unofficial silent treatment your primary care provider might be giving you.
A good visit to the doctor’s office shouldn’t be such a chore; it should be an experience where you can have an open dialogue with your physician about concerns or issues, and in turn, feel valued and prioritized.
Unfortunately, not all primary care offices are alike. We’ve found nine of the most common complaints that patients have with their family practice doctor. And unfortunately, you might be able to relate to one or more of these issues as you’ve run into them firsthand. At Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, CA our family practice doctors work within a direct primary care system that addresses these common complaints and creates a patient-centered approach to medicine.
9 Common Complaints About Your Primary Care Provider
Whether you find yourself in similar situations or not, it’s good to be mindful of the kind of care you’re receiving vs. what you should be receiving. See how your current clinic measures up:
Complaint #1: Burnt Out Staff
No one enjoys a staff who seems preoccupied, burnt out from handling other patients, or downright unfriendly. It’s understandable when the staff can barely keep afloat with the demands of a primary care office, because honestly, between the paperwork from the government and insurance companies, there is a lot to be done. Yet, the last thing you want to walk into is an office full of rude staff members who don’t seem to have the time of day for you.
The demands of a primary care clinic are no excuse for poor treatment, but perhaps now you have a better understanding of why this is. It’s unlikely that staff members have a personal vendetta with any specific patient -- they’re just burnt out from the broken system in place. With a membership model, like direct primary care (DPC), staff members actually have the time and attention to focus on you, rather than heaps of paperwork.
Complaint #2: Too Many Patients, Not Enough Time
While your primary care provider’s time is valuable, yours is, too. Not being able to schedule an appointment when convenient, or having the appointment itself feel rushed and unimportant is unacceptable. When doctors are swamped, they typically have their NPs or PAs there to cover for them. And while they’re trained in what they do, they’re not there to play doctor, nor do they have the same training.
While these doctors have nearly 3,000-4,000 or more patients, most DPC family practice doctors only have 600 patients or less -- making a patient’s trip to the doctor’s office worth the time and money. Having fewer patients makes each visit personal, allowing your doctor to devote an appropriate amount of time to you and your needs.
Complaint #3: No Human Connection to the Doctor
Let’s say your doctor does have the time to squeeze you in their busy workday and manages to be at your appointment rather than hiring out an NP or PA. This is good -- good until the visit is seven minutes or less and the doctor only makes eye contact with their computer screen.
To appease insurance companies, family medicine doctors are forced to check off a number of boxes on the computer. This results in less engagement with patients, and more attention to the electronic medical records. Whatever your care provider is typing out on that computer, chances are it doesn’t improve the actual care you’re receiving. This lends itself to an impersonal, routine family doctor’s visit.
Complaint #4: Can’t Get Ahold of the Doctor
It’s one thing to be turned away from your primary care clinic if you’re trying to schedule a last-minute appointment, but if your family medicine doctor doesn’t even make the time to talk with you on the phone, it’s clear there’s a fault in the system. Because doctors are overworked as is and don’t receive extra pay for their time talking with or emailing patients back, they’re less inclined to do so.
If you’re lucky, sometimes you can get in touch with a nurse. Other times, a patient’s message is never returned. On the flipside, DPC doctors don’t have to make the time to talk with each patient -- they already have the time due to taking on fewer patients. And there is no sneaky fee waiting for you at the end of each call. They’re happy to talk with you as a part of your monthly membership.
Complaint #5: Starting Off with Insurance Rather Than a Friendly ‘Hello’
No patient wants to walk into their primary care clinic and be greeted by staff demanding to see their insurance card, HIPAA form, and copay, all before saying ‘hello'. This robotic system has cut off human connection, leaving you feeling like just another number in line.
When a doctor and their staff truly know their patients, there is no need for the unnecessary identifier questions. With a DPC model, doctors are not confined to the demanding insurance companies and the government -- making your encounters with staff much more personal.
Complaint #6: Neglecting Cost
It’s great when family practice doctors order and administer the appropriate tests or prescription medications to better a patient’s health, but it’s not great when they aren’t conscientious of cost. A careful doctor must know what each treatment or prescription costs before they go ahead and start ordering, in case of it being too costly for you.
Because almost everyone has a high deductible plan now, the first $3,000-6,000 will come straight out of pocket. If a doctor neglects to tell you price points, it’s clear they don’t care enough to look into it and really assist in making a cost-conscious decision. Here at Elevated Health, we have affordable treatments and are always upfront with you about the costs of things before you leave our office.
Complaint #7: “Who are You Again?”
Yes, primary care providers do have a lot of patients and names to remember. If anything, these doctors should be taking the time to review your charts and history as a refresher. But, with thousands of patients, it’s unlikely they’re able to keep up.
Seeing a physician with about 600 patients makes a total difference. While 600 still sounds like a hefty number, doctors at a direct primary care office are able to have more personal connections, making you feel more at ease at your appointments.
Complaint #8: The Waiting Room Isn’t Clean
This is simple. If a doctor’s waiting room and office is cluttered and unclean, does anyone expect patients to come back? A medical facility already has negative connotations as is. So it’s important you feel welcome -- especially in a place where you may have to sit longer than you intend.
Or, you can ditch the long wait times altogether and start going to a DPC office -- a place where staff and physicians actually have the time to make the waiting room and entrance look nice.
Complaint #9: The Phone Rings Off the Hook
In a medical office, there’s typically a present staff member simply to answer the phone. While the phone is incessantly ringing, others are shuffling paperwork, clicking pens, or just scrambling to get things in order. Bottom line: the more that phone rings, the more the patients are going to get annoyed -- we’re sure you’ve experienced this at least once in your life. Yet, it doesn’t have to be like this.
We can’t stress this enough, but with a DPC office, there aren’t any insurance or billing burdens, and about 75% fewer patients to fight for the attention of the family medicine doctor or even the front desk manager-- leaving the waiting room quiet and comfortable for your visit.
Join the Community at Elevated Health
Here at Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, California, our mission is to provide the best experience for our patients -- from personal connections with our doctors to a clean and quiet waiting room, we’ve got you covered. Our direct primary care providers are committed to making you feel like a priority, rather than just another number in the system.
If you’re done with the primary care clinic you’re currently going to, come see what it’s like to schedule appointments conveniently, interact with your doctor on a personal level, and avoid extra insurance fees.
About the Author
Matthew Abinante is a board-certified family physician providing direct primary care to patients of all ages. Offering excellent care, diagnosis, and techniques, he continually participates in educational opportunities to best serve his patients. Working in Huntington Beach, he analyzes common aches and pains, proposes innovative treatment plans, and provides specialized services for each individual patient.
After excelling for years, Matthew received his DO and MPH from Touro University in Vallejo, CA. Matthew completed his residency training at PIH Health Hospital in Downey, CA, where he became a board-certified and trusted family physician who values patient-doctor relationships and clear communication.