Giving Out Results Over The Telephone

As a Medical Receptionist you are bound by patient confidentiality. It can at times bedifficult and can almost look as you are being most unhelpful.

It is vital that you have a good understanding of patient confidentiality – understand what you can and cannot say or do.  If you are unsure of a situation ask someone who knows before you give out any information.

In my experience when working in Reception I was amazed at the lengths people would go to try to access patient information – wives phoning for their husbands results. Mothers phoning up for their daughter’s pregnancy results, mothers phoning up for the “children’s” results – where the children were over 21 years of age and capable of doing so themselves.

I had a woman on the phone asking for her daughter’s pregnancy results. I explained that due to patient confidentiality that I was unable to discuss the results with her. She got pretty abusive – when that didn’t work she said that her daughter was at college and couldn’t phone. I asked if her daughter could phone in her lunch hour and again my head was bitten off. I stayed calm throughout the conversation and the mother didn’t get the results.

Then 10 minutes later she phoned again (obviously hoping to speak to a different Receptionist) But she got me again. This time she tried to make out that she was the daughter phoning (the patient).  It was quite obvious that I was talking to the same person as I did 10 minutes ago. But I could not prove it.

Question: As a Receptionist what would you have done in this situation?

Answer: You could ask the patient some questions to ascertain that they in fact were the patient.

  • You could ask the caller their DOB (date of birth) This one is not 100% full proof as for example the mother of the daughter would have had this information.

You could ask the patient when the test was done. Ask the caller when they had the test done? Asking them the time their appointment was?

 Ask the caller to confirm their mobile telephone number. You could ask the patient to confirm their mobile telephone number – not everyone would readily know another person’s mobile telephone off by heart.

You could ask the caller who they had seen in Surgery last. If the caller had been in to see a Doctor regarding the tests you could ask the caller who they came in to see regarding the tests.

Of course the caller might in fact know all of the above. You have all the patient information on the screen in front of you and there could be several questions that you could ask to confirm you are speaking to the patient.

If they are unable to answer your questions and you feel in any way that the caller is not in fact the patient you should not give out the results.

You could say to the caller that you do not have the results in front of you and that you will call them back or get the Doctor/Nurse to call them back. That way if the Doctor/Nurse calls the patient back they will be speaking directly to the patient themselves.

If you have followed some of the above or followed confidentiality procedures that you’re Practice gives and you give out results to someone other than the patient you cannot be held responsible. You have taken ever possible action to ensure that the caller was in fact the patient.

If you are anyway unsure that the results you have given to the caller might not be the patient – but could not actually prove it – then make a record of the call. Just say that you gave the results to the caller – you suspected that the caller might not have been the patient but they supplied you with the information you asked for.

Always cover yourself my making a record of any doubts you might have.

It is vital that you have a good understanding of Patient Confidentiality and what you can and cannot say.


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