As I walked into the recently renovated Columbia University Fertility Center, I was greeted by a friendly young woman at the desk. She asked me to sit in the waiting room as I waited for Dr Zev Williams to escort me. As I waited, I immediately noticed how small the waiting room was. After having visited 10 fertility clinics in New York City during my own fertility journey, “small” would not be what I’d use to describe waiting rooms.
Dr. Williams introduced himself and took me to his office. I could not help myself. The first question I asked was, “Do you have a backup waiting room?” He smiled and said, “No. That is our only waiting room. The last thing our patients want is to wait and the last thing they’d prefer to see is everyone else waiting. We’ve worked as a team to minimize wait times and, in fact, our volume has increased and wait times have plummeted.”
I could not wait for the tour. With a background in healthcare consulting, one of our hot topics is the need to change “the system.” Whether it be around patient-centered care teams to improved patient experiences, we know what needs to be done. The question is how? While Apple, Google, Amazon, and others are tackling the data side, let’s get back to Columbia and how they are tackling the patient experience.
The story began when the fertility center decided to renovate and move to a central location – Columbus Circle. The plans were developed by an architect. When asked if a cardiac unit would be designed in the same way, the architect said, “Yes!” This is when Dr. Williams, new on staff and now the Chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, stepped in. While this is not at all to minimize patients’ suffering when under cardiac care, it was important to take patients’ experience into account for this new center. Patients come in multiple times a month – sometimes for years – trying desperately to