Monday, December 19, 2011

Mechanics truly are doctors for cars

Last week, my car got a flat tire.  I rolled into the local dealership the next day to replace my donut spare with a new tire (along with a new tire for the opposite side, of course).

I had only that one issue on my agenda initially, but as I drove to the dealership, the little sticker in the corner of my windshield reminded me that I was overdue for an oil change.  Oh, and that non-urgent factory recall on the transmission needed attention.  It seemed like a lot to take care of, and I figured I'd probably need a return visit to get all of those issues addressed.

I was a little apprehensive about what they'd be like.  I don't speak "car" very well, you see.  I often have trouble understanding the explanations I get from mechanics, and they often don't understand what I'm referencing when I mention problems in lay car language like "a funny rattling noise."  Much like a physician, they have to ask "when does it happen?"  "how often?"  "what seems to bring it on?" to decipher my car's symptoms and obtain the information they need to diagnose and treat.  I tend to ask a lot of questions, and they tend to need to ask a lot back, which doesn't always go over well in busy carshops.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this dealership service center was my kind-of place.  Their routine check turned up some filters way overdue for a change (I confess to not being very good at remembering such routine maintenance needs), and their computer system alerted them to the transmission part recall before I could even ask about it.  They offered me a loaner car so that they could take care of the recall - and the filters, and the oil change, and the new tires - in a manner convenient to me and my needs.

And, happily, they explained everything that was going on in plain English. Patiently.  Like they had all the time in the world for me, even when it was clearly very busy there.

I would like to be that kind of doctor working in that kind of practice.  I'd like my patients to rely on my electronic record to prompt us when certain routine health maintenance needs are due.  I'd like for our office to make taking care of their healthcare needs as convenient for them as possible.  I'd like for them to trust that I will understand their non-medical story and share my thoughts back with them in plain English, while giving them my full, non-rushed attention.

The analogy only goes so far (I'll defer comment on car commercials, stereotypical car sales people, etc...), but I was fascinated by the many similarities between that car service center and a medical office.

We could learn a lot from them.

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