What do I mean by “special attention”? Well this could come in many forms but for me as a manager I felt that certain patients needed to be at times “highlighted” to the rest of the staff.
Who would these patients be?
I know a lot of people think that Receptionists ask too many questions – that they are “nosy” or perhaps a barrier to seeing the Doctor – but believe me this is not the case – Receptionists ask these questions on behalf of the Doctors and Nurses and try their very best to ensure than anyone that needs to see the Doctor sooner rather than later does – if everyone was give this priority then the system would be in quite a mess. Then where would that leave the people who are possible at risk and do need urgent medical attention.
For me it was important that these people did not slip through the system without being given any necessary follows ups that were needed. These people at times needed urgent appointments, urgent prescriptions or just access to the doctors without having to go through the many questions that sometimes a Receptionist has to ask.
Most of your staff will be dealing with these patient and will know of such cases – but what about the staff that work part-time – or those that have been on holiday for 2 weeks – it is amazing what kind of changes can go on in a surgery in this short space of time.
How many times I have seen a Receptionist that has been away ask a patient how their husband/wife/mum/dad are only to be told that they had died. It will happen – but there are ways that you can keep staff updated these issues.
What sort of things would these patients or their families phoning or coming into the surgery about?
An urgent prescription might need to be generated for a terminally ill patient. This could be done almost immediately instead of the usual 48 hours.
An urgent Doctors Visit might be needed for a terminally ill patient. The visit would be logged without question. And then when the Doctor does his visits he could prioritise this patient if needed.
A patient might need an appointment that day due to a bereavement, or a miscarriage. The patient might be too upset to discuss with the Receptionist and might need to be seen immediately.
A relative of a patient that has recently died might need to see a Doctor. They would not want to wait a few days for this – does your surgery have a policy on patients that have recently been bereaved.
Often if the Doctor is aware that a patient has died he or she will often phone the relatives of the patient – this can be very comforting at this very sad time.
All of the above would mean the patient would need to be dealt with quickly, without fuss or questions and with compassion.
To have their call / query dealt with efficiently without question will no doubly help they already stressful situation.
I decided in creating a “message board” a “specials needs board” or “patient board” it could be called whatever you like but at the end of the day this is how it worked.
In reception we had a wipe clean board. We used a wipe clean board simply because it was easy to use and update quickly. This would have three sections headed with:
- Terminally Ill
- Ante Natal
- R.I.P. (recently deceased)
At the start of any entry the date that the entry was made should be dated. This is a way of knowing when the message was written.
Any patients that were terminally ill either in hospital in a Nursing home or at home their name would be entered onto the board and the place that they were at.
If we had an expectant mum that was having a difficult pregnancy, had recently had a miscarriage or a still-born their name would be entered onto the board.
Any patient that had died their name and date that they died would be entered onto the board.
Beside each of their names we would have the patients Date of Birth. This is important to identify the correct patient.
The board would be kept in the Reception Area – but most important not in view to anyone other than staff. This is most important – remember patient confidentiality.
This board would be seen on a daily basis by all staff in the surgery. District Nurses used to come in each morning and have a look to see if any of their patients had died over night. The health visitors would also check the board on a daily basis. The midwife would look before she started her clinic and the doctors would look before their started their morning and afternoon sessions.
By having the board in Reception it is there for all staff to see – and the good thing about this board is you don’t even think you are looking at it – but when you answer the telephone and one of the names on the board is mentioned you immediately are drawn to the board – the board is almost subliminal you see it without realising it.
You will need to ensure that the board is kept up to-date. You could allocate this job to one Receptionist.
The terminally ill will need to be there until they sadly die and then go onto the R.I.P. (This also highlights those terminally ill that have died)
Your surgery will have to agree on how long you keep the Ante Natal information on there – at our surgery we kept it up there for a month after the entry.
R.I.P – again you will need to agree how long you want to keep the information on there – again we kept it up there for one month.
Try this board system – it really does work and those patients that need special care can get it without having to go through lots of questions to get what they want.
Here is an example of how the board might look.
- Mrs Jessie Jones DOB 30.03.29 (ca breast)
- Mr John Smith DOB 25.06.57 (heart disease)
- Annie White DOB 26.09.80 (miscarriage)
- Joan Brown DOB 25.08.86 (stillborn)
R.I.P. (recently deceased)
- Mr Alex Swords DOB 06.04.75 (died at home)
- Mrs Susan Bird DOB 12.12.45 (died in St Marys Nursing home)
You can of course make the board up in any way you think will fit in with your Surgery. But I must stress how important it is that this information is not seen by anyone other than staff.