When you have a Doctor away on holiday at your surgery do you tell the patients that they are on holiday?
There was a Doctor in our local area that went on holiday for 2 weeks and was burgled while he was away. His home was almost completely cleared out. According to the police the burglar had been back more than once.
The police caught the person responsible and it turned out that he was in fact a patient of the Doctor concerned and he had been in to see the Doctor the week before he went away on holiday. The Doctor wanted to see him again and informed the patient that he was in fact away on holiday for the next two weeks and to book in when he came back. Something the Doctor told many patients.
The police said that this in fact had happened before in another area. The burglar had all the info handed to them on a plate – being told that the property was more than likely going to be empty for up to 2 weeks and the patient knew exactly where the Doctor lived.
So, at our next Practice Meeting the Partners agreed that from then on in that they would try to restrict the information that they gave out to patients – especially when they were going away on holiday, and the reception staff were never to say they doctor was on holiday. Instead the Doctor or Receptionist was simply to say that the doctor would not be available for the next two weeks or however long they were going to be away for.
Facebook and Twitter are a great way of keeping your patients updated with surgery information. But please be careful and avoid advertising that a Doctor or any other staff members are not at work. This could be done in all good faith. I have seen lovely pictures of Doctors and Nurses being congratulated on their wedding day, showing beautiful pictures, but this could in fact be advertising that they could be going away on a honeymoon.
If patients persisted on asking questions we told the Receptionists to say the Doctor was taking study leave or on a course. Patients can often be persistent and will want some kind of answer.
Not long after this we heard that it had happened again to another local Doctor so we ensured that all steps were taken to try to keep personal information away from patients.
It is extremely hard to keep such information away from everyone – but steps to ensure that as little personal information is shared is vital.
Get your Doctors and staff to minimise the amount of personal information that they are giving to patients.
After these episodes our Doctors all re visited their home security and some even had house sitters while they were away. It’s sad but also vital that every step is taken to protect the Doctors and staff of your practice.