Its happens to the best of us – most of us as a Receptionist will have at one time or another booked someone in with the wrong healthcare professional. But it’s how you deal with mistake, and the actions we take to ensure that:
- a) it doesn’t happen again and
- b) the patient is inconvenienced as little as possible, most important to remember it wasn’t their mistake they were booked in with the wrong person.
A good friend of mine had this happen to her only last week. She was booked in with a wrong dentist at her Dental Practice – and here is the impact both emotionally and financially it had on her life due to a wrongly booked appointment.
Firstly, the patient has a phobia of the dentist, so to book an appointment in itself is a major ordeal for her. She was told at her last appointment that she needed to have a tooth extraction. The appointment was booked some 6 weeks away – 6 weeks of anxiety about the forthcoming appointment.
No one enjoys going to the dentist but to have a phobia is on another level and unless you understand this you have no idea the stress and anxiety it can cause the patient and those around them.
Her appointment was booked for 10 am last Monday morning. At 9.15 she received a call from the Practice tell her that she had been booked into the wrong dentist (she had been originally registered with the dentist she had mistakenly been booked in with – but because she had gone over a certain period of time without an appointment she had to re-register with the same Practice but was registered under another dentist) She was told that the dentist she was NOW registered with was fully booked for that day, and her previous dentist had refused to see her despite having the half hour appointment booked out.
The receptionist did apologise, and commented that she could hear how anxious the patient was at having the appointment cancelled. She was offered another appointment for the Wednesday at 8.30. She had to refuse this because she had children that she had to get to school and the dentist was a good few miles away from where they lived. She was then offered another appointment on the Friday morning at 10.00.
Now this already had started causing the patient problems. Because of her phobia of the dentist her husband who is self-employed had to arrange to take time off from work to accompany her to the dentist. When he doesn’t work he doesn’t get paid. The patient also works 3 evenings a week, and Mondays were one of her nights to work. Because she was going to have a tooth extraction it was suggested because of the type of work she does that she didn’t go into work that evening, so she had to arrange a swap with someone at her work. So, the cancelled appointment had already started to cause unnecessary problems as she now had to have another night off as the appointment was booked for the Friday which was another night she was scheduled to work.
She didn’t feel she could ask for another swap and she didn’t want to take this off as sickness as she prides herself on her exemplary sickness record and didn’t want to leave her work colleagues under pressure if she phoned in sick. She spoke to her boss and she had to take the night off as unpaid leave – another loss of earnings. Her husband had to also swap work around meaning that he was again losing more money on the Friday morning.
She arrived at the dentist, with her phobia now causing her concern she looked for reassurance from the dentist – which sadly she didn’t get. She was given the injection and asked to sit in the waiting room – the injection didn’t seem to take, so she was given a second and third injection before being told that it hadn’t taken and therefore the dentist couldn’t do the procedure. She was told she would have to be referred to the hospital to have the extraction done under a general anaesthetic and was told to expect to wait between 3-6 months. She really wanted to have this procedure done and dusted just to get it out-of-the-way and she certainly wasn’t keen on the thought of having a general anaesthetic, but understood why this would have to be done.
So, she was sent home, she had paid for the extraction that she didn’t have. On top of that now having to take a night off work without pay as well as her husband losing another half day’s wages. This tooth extraction that didn’t happen had now cost them both a lot of money.
10 minutes after leaving the dentist her mouth went completely numb and she couldn’t feel a thing, making her question if she could have indeed had the procedure done after all. She did feel that the dentist had certainly rushed through the appointment.
All of this causing annoyance and stress which could have been avoided if she had been put in with the right dentist when the appointment was being booked.
The importance of getting the appointment right is not only for the benefit of the Practice but also the benefit of the patient – you never know what is behind a cancelled appointment.