Phoning a Patient at Home


Does your Practice have guidelines on phoning patients at home? We all know of the obvious one and that’s not to leave a message of any kind on a landline because of confidentiality.

But when is it a good time to phone when you need to speak to a patient? Perhaps it’s relaying on a message from the Doctor or Nurse, or just to let them know there is a prescription to collect due to recent tests coming in.

I will give you an example on how consideration should be made when phoning a patient at home.

Someone close to me has for the past 6 years been trying for a baby without any success. The couple have been through many hospital and doctors visits, pregnancy results and alternative treatment to try help them achieve a pregnancy. They finally went through IVF earlier in the year with the daily injections, hormone changes and finally the heart-breaking news that it hadn’t worked. They set their sights on more IVF in 3 months’ time. An eternity to them both. But to all our surprise and delight a month after the failed IVF they fell pregnant naturally.

Fast follow to her being 6 months pregnant. She hadn’t had an easy time, morning sickness and fatigue hit with a vengeance, she also has an over active thyroid that needs monitoring throughout the pregnancy and she also found out that she was rhesus negative blood type and tests would have to be done when the baby was born to see if she needed an anti D injection but the delight of finally being pregnancy got them through all of these hiccups.

Her symptoms were getting worse and she was feeling poorly with no energy she seen the doctor and bloods were sent off to check for her iron levels.

So last Wednesday morning she was in bed. It was 7.55 and the telephone rang downstairs. They have elderly relatives and she immediately worried something was up. No on every phones at that time unless its urgent she thought.

She rushed out of bed, rang down the stairs and as she picked up the phone it stopped. She waited for a message but then her mobile started ringing upstairs – she panicked as someone was trying to get hold of her.

As she ran upstairs to get to the phone she tripped on the stairs and fell. In the panic she got up and answered the telephone to find it was her Doctors Receptionist telephoning to say that there was a prescription in reception for her to pick up for iron tablets.

As you can imagine she was upset as the fall. As the day went on she couldn’t feel much movement from the baby and this caused her a lot of distress, until she finally telephoned her midwife to asked her to come straight into the maternity hospital to check the baby and to have an anti D injection.

So, did the Receptionist really need to phone at 7.55 in the morning? I don’t think so. This telephoned caused a lot of unnecessary worry and inconvenience not to say how awful it could have been – but we wont do there! And not to mention how bad the Receptionist would have felt had she had known about the fall.

There should always be a guideline for people being telephoned at home unless it is urgent of course. 7.55 is far too early, what if it had been an elderly or disabled person doing the same thing? A fall could have been a disaster for them.

When training staff I always told them unless urgent no patient should be telephoned at home before 9.00 and if possible leave it until around 10.00.

More and more surgeries are opening up earlier than every before, so perhaps guidelines should be set to what time Receptionists can start to phone patients.

My Experiences with Dr’s Receptionists in Dubai #GuestPost #2/2

I would like to share the second post from a friend. The first post was her experiences with the healthcare system when she was living in South Africa.

She had now moved to Dubai and shares her experiences with the healthcare system there, and how helpful she finds the Receptionist.

Thank you for sharing your experiences……………….


Visiting the Doctor in Dubai

A new medical aid scheme this time, it works differently, some treatments I pay for in advance, some I must have a referral letter for, some is covered under the scheme and some is only part refunded.

Armed with every question I thought I needed to know, I started calling round Doctors surgeries after 6 months. I’d put of registering with a doctors and the dentists because of the stress of sorting out the medical aid in South Africa. However I was in chronic pain with what turned out to be a slipped disc and I need to see a doctor a.s.a.p.

I asked all the questions I thought I needed to of the receptionist, told her I was new to this country and this medical scheme, made an appointment, saw the doctor and was presented with a bill for AED 100 excess. Medication was easy, I took the prescription to the chemist, gave them my medical aid card, it was all paid for. I had a referral letter for the physio. I spoke to the receptionist on accounts that told me I had to phone my medical aid company, gain permission, and find out what they were willing to pay.

I ended up at the physio not knowing how much medical aid would pay because I could not get the receptionist to tell me how much the physio charged until I had an appointment. I went regardless, sometimes when you’re in that much pain then money isn’t the main issue.

On arrival at the phsyio I was in tears from the walking, the heat and the stress. The receptionist realized I couldn’t sit and cleared a counter for me to lean on, gave me a coffee and asked me where I was from and how long I’d lived here. She asked me if I needed any further assistance so I asked about the medical aid and all was explained to me. I pay AED 350 after each session and I receive AED 329 reimbursement. She gave me an invoice that was signed and dated and a claim form. Simple or so I thought.

I actually called her today to tell her my medical aid company wants a separate claim form for each visit and yet another referral letter, this time from the physio and not the doctor.

My next appointment is on Monday, the receptionist informed me she’d get everything filled out, dated and signed and scanned onto a memory stick so I can email the claim directly.

I would turn for help and guidance to the receptionist at the doctors surgery every time from now on, they are dealing with things like this every day and know what they are doing.

I know a lot of people complain about receptionist when asked what the matter is prior to making an appointment, but that is so the receptionist can make the right length of appointment with the right person. When you pay for your health care, you really can’t afford to be booked in with the doctor when you could’ve gone straight to the physio or nurse.


Her first post on South Africa isMy Experience with Dr’s Receptionists in South Africa #Guest Post #1

From a Patients Point of View #Guest Blog #Dr’s Receptionists #Empathy #Ireland


My guest posts are becoming very popular and it is nice to read how important patient care is to the patient from their point of view, and reading about their experiences in difference countries.

This post has come from Ireland and the experiences the writer has found when dealing with Dr’s Receptionists.

The most important thing we should remember that as a Dr’s Receptionist our actions do impact of people’s life, and we can leave lasting impressions – we what are in control of is that the patient is left with the right impression.

Some of the feedback from this post included:

–  intimated by the receptionists I have to deal with 

–  Seemed cold and hard

–   wishing for is someone to show a little bit of empathy 

–   one receptionist who was the most amazing woman I came across 

–  really cared about the patient’s 

–  All we ask is that someone understand our position too.

Thank you A for your contribution to my blog…….

Guest post………….

About 5 years ago I was diagnosed with Benign Intracranial Hypertension and chronic migraine. It was a long road to get diagnosed and then an even longer road to get treatment and eventually to be able to live a somewhat normal life. As you can imagine I dealt with many different doctors including neurologists, surgeons, migraine specialists, pain specialists, ophthalmologists and physiotherapists. That’s a lot of doctors and departments which in turn means a lot of doctors receptionists.

When I was first diagnosed I was if I am honest a little intimated by the receptionists I have to deal with. They all seemed so cold and hard and when you are in as much pain as I was all the time then the one thing you are wishing for is someone to show a little bit of empathy, a little bit of emotion and maybe even a little bit of care. It seems that all they do is try to block you from getting the treatment you need.

However there is one receptionist who to me was and still is the most amazing woman I came across through all this. She was the receptionist for the migraine specialist in Beaumont. From the outset it seemed she actually really cared about the patients and would ask you how you were if you called or would have a chat with you when you went for an appointment.

I had just been discharged from hospital a week when I began to have extreme pain. Now I was very good at managing my pain and would only really call the hospital if I really needed to. This was one of those times. I always tried to bypass the receptionists because I knew I would get nowhere with them. This day however I failed to do that and got transferred to the receptionist. I explained the situation and by the end of the explanation I was in tears. To my utter shock, she put me in for an appointment the following day. This was completely unheard of in Beaumont. It turned out the pressure in my head was really high and if she hadn’t given me that appointment, I could have been in serious trouble.

From a patient’s point of view, a doctor’s receptionist is like the gate-keeper. The problem is when you have been in so much pain for so long and all you want is someone to help you, it can be tough to understand the harshness with which some receptionist treat you.

I can also understand the receptionist’s position; it’s a tough job having that much responsibility put on you. All we ask is that you understand our position too. We need help and you are the first person who can give it to us


thank you and this just highlights what was said “from a patents point of view, a Doctor’s receptionist is like the gate keeper” how very true this is.

As a Receptionist how would you like to be remembered?

Handling Difficult Patients #Guest Post #PracticeIndex

I would like to thank Practice Index for letting me share their post on ‘Handling Difficult Patients’. Practice Index is a support site for GP practice managers and surgery staff. Their popular online discussion forum allows you to ask questions and gain advice and guidance on any surgery issues from the community of NHS professionals. They also have a resources library within the forum which contains hundreds of policies and protocols that you can use in your own practice. You can join the Practice Managers’ forum for free by clicking here:

Concept of relax with businessman doing yoga

April 28, 2015 by Practice Index in Patients

Handling Difficult Patients

Dealing with difficult patients at the reception desk and in the waiting room is, like it or not, part and parcel of your job as a Practice Manager. It’s your responsibility to demonstrate confident and compassionate handling of difficult patients, displaying techniques your team – especially newer recruits – can learn and gain self-assurance from.

Keep Calm

Aggressive patients are particularly likely to try and bully you into an argument, but your role here is to stay calm and unemotional. An emotional response from you – irritation, laughter or anger – will only fuel their attack and potentially cause a situation to escalate. In nursing as much as in the general practice, sensible steps to take would include the following:

–  Speak softly and abstain from being judgemental
–  Put a little more physical distance between yourself and the patient and avoid intense eye contact which could be seen as  provocative
–  Be in control of the situation without seeming either demanding or overly authoritative
–  Show your intention to rectify the situation rather than reprimanding the patient for their behaviour

Defy Logic

An angry patient won’t respond to logical arguments, so try to resist the temptation to reason with someone who is clearly in a terrible temper. It’s also important in situations like these to not resort to all-out grovelling if the practice is not at fault. Accepting responsibility is irreversible and could do the practice damage, as well as your own reputation. What you can do, however, is apologise for the particular inconvenience your patient is aggrieved by at this moment – and offer what immediate action you can (if any) to rectify the situation. Make a note of all complaints received, formal or informal – this includes patients storming out of hanging up on phone calls.

Rise Above It

Patients can be rude and downright insulting on a bad day, but try to refrain from letting them know what you think of them or how they’ve made you feel. Stay professionally detached and see this objectivity as your ‘protection zone’ from hurt. Ignore their rudeness and you may find that, with no visible impact, their insults start to die down. Equally, treating an angry adult like the adult they are – despite the toddlerish tantrum they’re throwing – should encourage them to gently return to adult form if you’re consistent enough with it. Patronising, belittling treatment will only inflame that childish rage.

We’ve all come up against it in our time and this just scratches the surface in coping tools for difficult patients. Why not share your best advice for diffusing tempers and managing quarrelsome individuals in the waiting room?

My Experience with Dr’s Receptionists in South Africa #Guest Post #1/2

My blog is mainly about my experiences working within the NHS in the UK as a Receptionist and then as a Manager highlighting the important of Patient Care and how important it is to reward valuable hard working staff with the appropriate training. I am delighted that I have followers from over 160 countries that read my blogs on a regular basis, and I have often wondered what the Patient Care is like in their own countries. I would like to thank a friend for answering these thoughts in two different posts; she is an expat firstly moving to South Africa in 2011. For me it just highlights how important good Customer Care is, and often the answers can be found with the Receptionists or the Practice Manager. As you will read, sometimes it just takes a bit of time, effort and compassion to turn a difficult time for the Patient into a less stressful one. My Guest Posts are proving to be very popular and I would like to thank my friend for sharing her experiences with us. **************************** Guest Post #1 images My experience with Dr’s Receptionists in South Africa. One of the biggest issues we had to deal with when we started our lives as expats in South Africa in January 2011 was the medical aid. This is something we weren’t used to doing, having moved from the UK. Trying to explain to the medical aid company that while their vitality points and credit card was a very good idea, we weren’t switching from one scheme to another, so therefore the ‘extras’ at that stage were of no interest. 8 days after arriving in South Africa the oldest child who moved with us was rushed into hospital after being hit in the neck with a cricket ball, our medical aid hadn’t been registered on the system and so began a very long and complicated matter to recover the money we’d been made to hand over on our American Express card on arrival at the hospital before we were allowed to see our son. It took around 6 months to sort and during that time I received phone calls from all the various departments demanding payment and I’m afraid to say the day the receptionist at the hospital called me to tell me I’d under paid by around £10, having handed over several thousand for scans, x-rays, ambulance, paramedics, doctors, medication, you name it, it is charged individually. I flipped my lid and screamed at her ‘some bloody help would be nice instead of just all these demands’ And that was the end of visiting the Dr’s and dentists for a while as I just couldn’t cope with what to do and how to do it, until the youngest child broke his arm and needed surgery. I was much more assertive. I refused to pay any money until I knew my son was being seen and once he’s been given pain relief, then, I firmly told the receptionist that ‘I will open a file, in the meantime here is my medical aid card and no, I haven’t had time to get any authorised as I don’t know what the doctor wants to do, do you?’ This was a fast learning curve, but I still had no idea how to use the medical aid and the Dr’s and the dentists for none emergencies. I visited a dentist, asked if they accepted the medical aid, but didn’t know I had to ask if they worked within our medical aid fees and was left paying nearly half the bill. I suffer with migraines, the stress was making them worse, along with the heat, so I decided I should visit the local doctors and try to work out what I needed to do in order to make sure that I wasn’t out of pocket financially and that when I had to pay for hospital visits, how to get reimbursed. So pitching up at the surgery I asked the receptionist if she could explain to me step by step what I needed to do and how. She could see I was still confused and called for the practice manager who took me to her office, informed me they worked with my medical aid, they worked within the payment scheme, there were no fees or excess to pay and checked our current balance online for me. She then informed me we were actually in what is known as the payment gap and I did I have the receipts from the dentists? If so I could log them online and I’d be out the payment gap and then our bills would be paid as normal. She then informed me that had we chosen to keep our son, with the cricket ball incident, in hospital over night rather than bringing him home, because we thought it would cost us more money, that all costs would have come out of the inpatient fund which is unlimited and not our out-patient funds that were for doctors and dentists. She also explained the allowances for medication, dental and opticians and told me to come back to her if I had any further problems. Sending me back to the receptionist who made me a cup of coffee and squeezed me in there and then with the doctor as she herself thought I may need to speak to someone about my stress levels. I could not thank the receptionist and the practice manager enough and whenever I visited in the future the receptionist would chat with me, ask after my husband and the children and tell me to help myself to the pot of coffee whilst waiting for the doctor. *****************************   Follow my friend’s experiences when she relocated to Dubai  #2 to follow