In Part IV of this five-part series, we tackle the last big issue of our dysfunctional medical practice revealed last week: the majority of calls to our client’s practice were repeated requests for prescriptions, referrals or test results.
Issue #4: Patients aren’t Always Patient, and Perception is Reality
This paper-based office had a huge challenge with patient test results. No process existed for the prompt and smooth handling of results from the fax machine or printer, to the clinician, and finally to the patient. Results were not proactively tracked so, many times, when the patient was in the exam room, staff members scrambled to request faxed results, which also prolonged the visit. External providers were becoming frustrated at sending documents several times because they got “lost” en route.
A visit to the Medical Records Department revealed a backlog of filing and no process for alphabetizing unfiled results for ease of retrieval. It was discovered that the same document was routed for review and signature and then filed multiple times, adding to the logjam. An overtime “filing party” quickly resolved the issue, and we revised the processes for the receipt/review/communication cycle which prevented a recurrence.
Finally, patient perceptions and expectations were addressed. People aren’t dumb. When they see staff flying around the office, and overhear conversations about “lost” charts and results, anxiety can run high. The patient’s typical reaction is to become hyper-vigilant when it comes to personal health documents. So if a test was conducted, patients will call right away and several times to obtain information, believing that if they lower their guard, something will slip through the cracks of the chaos.
The revised office processes were communicated to the patients to reassure them that the tide had turned. In addition, expected timeframes for results were explained, and the office increased proactive communication by contacting patients on normal results, when prescriptions were called in and referrals processed, thereby minimizing incoming calls.