An Easy fix for one of the biggest

complaints about healthcare

At the Sheldon Sowell Center we make our living working with patients who are dissatisfied with the other options out there. As a result, we tend to hear complaints about the healthcare landscape, from appointments that are too short to support personnel who don’t have adequate training.

The most common one, by a wide margin, has nothing directly to do with the practice of medicine. Rather, it’s about simple decency:

Failing to return phone calls.

It should go without saying that talking to your patients is central to treating your patients. And yet, a sizable number of doctors out there simply don’t do this. Through their silence, they make patients feel belittled and could even be jeopardizing their health.

At the Center, we discovered the solution to the problem of not answering patients’ phone calls the moment we opened our doors 25 years ago. Sit down for a moment, because we don’t want you to hyperventilate in amazement as we tell you our amazing insight. Ready?

The solution to the problem of not answering patients’ phone calls is … to answer patients’ phone calls.

We recognize that doctors are merely one cog in a machine that has been engineered to minimize contact between doctors and patients, what with endless insurance forms and the incessant imperative to do more with less.

But we also think it’s fair to say: Come on! Cutting the patient out of the doctor-patient relationship cannot be a good idea. All businesses, medicine included, measure success in part by how many new clients come in. In health care, alas, providers never seem to hire new staff to manage new patients when they are fortunate enough to receive them, degrading the experience for everybody involved.

Our approach to phone calls is to not get bogged down in technology that purports to make connections but in reality keeps people apart, like phone trees. During business hours, patients’ calls are answered by our staff, who are an integral part of our team and know all our patients by name. Almost always, they can instantly transfer the call to one of our RNs. And unless your doctor happens to be with a patient at that moment, they’re available too.

After hours, patients can and do call Drs. Sheldon and Sowell on their personal cell phones. Believe it or not, this almost never causes an unwelcome disruption to their family time. That’s because we have a collegial relationship with our patients and they rapidly develop a sense of what can wait and what can’t. And if you have a medical emergency at 2 AM you want to speak to your physician, not a stranger, right?

Here are some other things that we all know doctors are supposed to do, but don’t always:

    • Know who the patient is and what their medical condition is before the appointment begins.
    • Look at their patient, not their computer, while talking to them.
    • Actually see their patients, rather than relying on non-physician assistants with less training.

Notice a pattern? These are all simple acts of politeness that can’t be monetized, yet it seems self-evident to us that they are central to good patient care. When the tradition of treating human beings as human beings is allowed to drift away, the quality of patient care can only go in one direction. (Hint: It’s not up.)

When you look at a phone call as an opportunity to create a great outcome together rather than as an annoyance, vast opportunities for success present themselves. There was the time a patient called us in pain from his car and we guided him into the best hospital that he could safely reach. Or the time we showed a patient how to avoid the time-suck of going to the pharmacy monthly for refills. Or the time we stepped in and prevented a patient’s long-awaited surgery from being canceled because the anesthesiology group waited until the last minute to reveal a long list of mandatory preparatory steps. There was no way a patient with work and family obligations should have been expected to line up all those tests and find all those documents over a weekend!

There have been countless other “aha” moments like these that simply couldn’t have happened if we had kept our patients at a distance like many practices do.

Talking together, with mutual respect and full attention, is the foundation of what we do at the Sheldon Sowell Center. We hope you’ll contact us for a free introductory call to decide if the Center is right for you. At this call we will . . . you guessed it . . . take some time to talk.



The information posted on this blog and website are for general information only and should never be relied on as specific medical advice for an individual reader.  No financial relationship exists between us and any recommended products or persons mentioned. All material contained here is the property of the Sheldon Sowell Center for Health, PC, and cannot be copied, reprinted, or linked to without our express permission.

Phone: 303-789-4949
Fax: 303-789-7495
1780 South Bellaire Street #700
Denver, CO 80222