Blog | Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Free Wi-Fi in the doctor's office?

I have always been irked when a hotel charges me for Wi-Fi use. This pick-pocketing is resented by hotel guests across the fruited plain. This money grab is taken right out of the airlines' playbook, who now charge us for carry-on bags, an aisle seat, a candy bar, a working flotation device “in the unlikely event of a water landing” or a functioning oxygen mask. Need to change your reservation? Easily done for $150. On what basis can this fee be deemed reasonable? It constitutes consumer abuse of the first order. Although airline profits are soaring, and fuel costs have tanked, there has been no trickle-down effect to travelers, who are left with little recourse except to pen cranky blog posts.

Hotels know that Wi-Fi is like oxygen. Since we can't live without it, why not extort a few dollars for it. A paradox in this exploitative practice is that cheap hotels give their guests free Wi-Fi, while top tier hotels might charge $15 a day for the privilege of using a service that costs the hotel nothing. There will usually be some inconvenient location where it is free for all, knowing that most of us want the service in our hotel rooms.

“We have a free Wi-Fi area on the other side of the parking lot. Since it's raining, we do have umbrellas available, for a small fee …”

Guests are pushing back. Hotels are taking notice and backing off. We have an expectation that some goods and services should be free according to natural law.

Here are some items that I never want to pay for.
• water at restaurant
• bread at a restaurant
• Wi-Fi
• customer service from a living, breathing human being regarding a product i have purchased.
• an extended warrantee.
• plastic or paper bags at a supermarket.
• parking lot fee at a theater.
• shipping and handling fees.

The medical profession is always on the lookout for revenue enhancement. Perhaps, we should also adopt an a la carte fee approach. Here are some items we might start charging for in our gastroenterology practice.
• pre-visit handwash.
• restroom use.
• toilet paper in the restroom.
• working light in the restroom.
• clean colonoscopy equipment.
• waiting room magazines less than 6 months old.
• waiting room chair use. This would be coin operated. Once the 15 minutes expires, the patient would have 2 minutes to insert additional coins in order to avoid a very gentle series of electric shocks.

Why should we physicians leave money on the table? If you want to change your appointment, we can do this for a mere $150.

Perhaps, our practice should establish a Rewards Program, where patients can accrue points after each office visit. 100 points might give you a preferred parking place. 250 points might guarantee you an on time appointment. 500 points might entitle you to extra anesthesia during your procedure. And, 750 points might grant you a half hour access to our Wi-Fi.

This post by Michael Kirsch, MD, FACP, appeared at MD Whistleblower. Dr. Kirsch is a full time practicing physician and writer who addresses the joys and challenges of medical practice, including controversies in the doctor-patient relationship, medical ethics and measuring medical quality. When he's not writing, he's performing colonoscopies.