Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kept Waiting . . .

Few days back I had a date in a court. I had to give my expert opinion as a witness to a medico-legal case. Something very common in the life of a doctor. 

I reached the court at around 7 early morning. We've made it a routine to route all our medicolegal cases through our lawyer. It's a bit more expensive but saves us all the hassles. So, I was there at the table of our lawyer waiting for the judge to call me. 

To cut the story short, the judge called me at around 9:00 am and he took up my case at around 9:30. The cross examinations and other formalities took around half hour. I was ultimately back at NJH by around 11 am. As I drove back, I wondered about the time I lost waiting for the venerable judge. 

In India, we are quite used to waiting . . . Waiting for trains that are running late, waiting for the bank teller to open his counter, waiting for some shop to open it's shutters, waiting for a traffic jam to clear out . . . the time we spend waiting in our lives are huge. 

And of course, we are always well prepared to wait . . . a book in hand . . . and with the cell phones now, one can always keep one selves entertained. 

It was sad that even at the level of the judiciary one had to wait. The summer timing for the courts in this part of the country is 7:30 am. But, the judge did made his arrival after 2 hours. I can now imagine how we have ended up with quite a large number of pending cases before the judiciary. There has been quite a lot written on it. 

Talking of arriving late and keeping people waiting, I think that it's one way of showing people how important you are. The higher the position, the more you made people to wait. One can remember waiting for the local politician to arrive at a function . . . and even the time one has to wait to see a doctor. 

To see a doctor . . . that reminds me about how we made a small, but major change couple of years back about our approach to patients. Many of my colleagues were quite sceptic about the possible returns. Now, as we analyse our patient load over the last year, we get feedback that the strategy has worked. 

In most hospitals, the outpatient department starts after the doctors finish off the ward rounds and the other work in the wards. Therefore, the patients wait for quite a long time. We made a policy to ensure couple of doctors started off outpatient work sharp at 8:30 in the morning. 

Now, we get almost 50 patients before 10 am . . . 

I presume that we would gain a lot by ensuring that we don't keep people waiting. It wastes resources. It builds up stress. And you can imagine a whole chain of events which impacts many lives and communities. 

So, could I request you not to keep your clients/patients/customers waiting . . . We will end up saving quite a lot . . . time, energy and resources. And that would be part of our nation building efforts . . .


  1. Hi Jeevan achacha, as part of my course we study a subject called Services Operations Management. One of things we deal with is reducing wait times for services. One thing I learned was waiting for doctors appointment is common in developed nations as well. But wait times are pretty less comparatively.


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  3. Nikhil, here the issue is about being kept waiting just because of human apathy. In systems where multiple processes are involved (like a hospital, assembly line), there is a room for applying processes. We do it as part of hospital management - time motion studies.