The Importance of Confidentiality


 

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Confidentiality training is necessary for any staff handling confidential information. Whether the information is about a patient, a GP or other member of the healthcare team, family or internal business or financial data, and volunteers. Everyone must understand how confidentiality is applied. Many organisations require mandatory confidentiality training at least annually or more frequent for positions that deal with sensitive data on a daily basis. Heads of Departments must understand the confidentiality policies and procedures of your organisation.

 

Confidentiality in the workplace is a growing issue for many small Practices.  With outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, it is easier than ever for employees to share work related stories online, and they may not even realise the potential harm they may be causing.  Ensure that you are fully aware of the Centre’s policy on adding pictures and information.

Whilst we are all bound by patient confidentiality there may be a time that for the safe wellbeing of a person or persons you may need to share information with another person in your Practice or with an outside agency. Guidelines should be set for this. If you are not aware of these guidelines speak to your Team Leader or Practice Manager.

Are you confident that your staff fully understand confidentiality?

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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The Sunshine Patient


 

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Working on the front desk as a Receptionist you deal with thousands of patients over the years. But there are those few patients that will always stay in your mind for different reasons. If I think back to the many lovely patients I use to deal with one that automatically springs to mind is Andrew (I have changed his name for this story).

Let me tell you about Andrew and how he used to lighten up my day when he came into the surgery. He was like a ray of sunshine.

Andrew used to come in on a fairly regular basis with his Dad. Andrew was 25 years old and had Downs Syndrome.

It was just Andrew and his Dad – on getting to know them more I found out that sadly Andrew’s mum had died in their house due to Carbon monoxide poisoning. Andrew and his dad were extremely lucky to pull through – but it was so obvious how they missed their wife and mum.

When I first started dealing with Andrew and his Dad on the front desk it was always his dad that made the appointments, did the talking and insisted on going into see the doctor with Andrew.

The doctor that Andrew (and his dad) used to see on a regular basis was concerned that Andrew was not being allowed to be more independent and do more for himself – but the Doctor also identified that this was mainly down to Andrew’s dad not wanting to “let go”. Andrew was all he had in the world. But at the same time it was not fair to Andrew he was being held back.

After some months getting to know Andrew and his Dad Andrew started to really come out of himself and would chat away at the front desk to me he would joke and laugh with me. I always got a great big beam from him when he came into Reception.

Andrew would happily tell me about his day – what they had done that morning and what there were going to do that afternoon. I always looked forward to his visits and the stories he had to tell.

Then Andrew starting to hold the conversation more every time he came in. Andrew even started to book his next appointment by himself and actually started going in to see the doctor on his own. I seen Andrew grow with such confidence. The doctor that Andrew was seeing was extremely supportive and understood Andrews needs so well.

When Andrew was in with the doctor one morning his dad was chatting to me at the desk. He opened up to his fears about Andrew, and confessed that he actually felt that he was holding Andrew back, but Andrew was all he had.  He confessed that he had even put a block on Andrew attending a day centre as he didn’t want to let go. I felt so sorry for his dad and for Andrew too. His main fear was that Andrew would die and he would be left with no one. The love he had for Andrew was amazing but he was holding him back.

Andrew continued to flourish and he even got a bit bold at times – in a nice way. The cheeky chap even tried to chap me up for his dad once and asked if I would go to their house for fish and chips that Friday night – it was all in good fun and he understood that I couldn’t go as I had to get home to my two girls.

Andrew’s confidence continued to grow, with the help of the GP his dad finally agreed that Andrew could go to a day centre – Andrew just loved it there. His eyes would sparkle when he told me about his days there and the friends that he had made.

But his dad’s fears of loosing Andrew never went away.

Life continued in the surgery and Andrew and his Dad’s visit became less frequent. Andrew was becoming much more independent and loved his days at the centre.

Then one Monday morning I was checking through the out of hours reports and to my horror seen that there had been a death at their address – Andrew’s dad had died of a massive heart attack.

I never got to see Andrew again – and never knew what happened to him, but one thing for sure I know that wherever he went he would have brightened up their days just like he had done to mine whenever he came into the surgery.

I would like to think that the independence that Andrew gained over the years would have given him some strength to get through the loss of his Dad.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Useful Contact Addresses for New Staff


It is important that new staff have availability to addresses and telephones numbers of all agencies that the Practice might use. Some of these might be required in a case of an emergency and will be needed quickly.

This does not only apply to new Receptionists/Secretaries but to anyone starting at the Practice including locums.

You should include a copy of the list in the locum handbook which should be available for all Locums when they begin their shift.

I suggest that a file of such contacts is kept in Reception, together with a list in each of the consultation rooms including the nurses rooms – often other healthcare professionals will use these rooms for example a midwife might work once a week and use either a Doctors or Nurses room. Your Practice might also have a counsellor or a physiotherapist working from one of these rooms. Locums will more often than not be put into most of these rooms depending on who they are covering for.

The numbers will vary according to your location but a few suggestions are given below to start off your list.

Hospitals

  • Nearest with an accident and emergency department
  • Local maternity hospital
  • Neighbouring hospitals (in case local is busy/closed)
  • Psychiatric hospitals (ENT, eye, neurosurgical, etc)

Ambulance Control

  • Direct line to emergency service
  • Routine bookings

Out Of Hours Service

  • Admin Office
  • Number for patients to call.

Security

  • Local Police Station
  • Security alarm firm

Family Planning Clinic

Coroner’s Office

Local Funeral Directors

Practice Staff (always ask permission before displaying information)

  • Doctors
  • Practice Manager
  • Other Receptionists
  • Nurses
  • Other Staff

Health Authority

  • General Administration Office
  • Stationary
  • Supplies

PCT

  • Various numbers that will be applicable to your surgery

Local Authority

  • Social Services Department
  • Child Protection Department
  • Refuse Collection Services

Transport

  • Hospital Transport
  • Taxi firms
  • Local transport
  • Volunteer drivers (if applicable)

Other Local Doctors

Local Dentists

  • Especially those providing emergency services

Voluntary Services

  • Samaritans,
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Bereavement Service
  • And so on……………

 The list can be expanded as much as you like, but keep the names in a logical order so that others can find them easily.

It is vital that the list is checked on a regular basis, updated as required and all old copies removed and replaced with the updated ones. I suggest that this is typed and saved on the computer for easy assess and updating. A address book can sometime get messy and often does not get updated as it should.

Again, before you add any personal numbers of staff or Healthcare professionals please ask their permission to do so.

It is vital that you have such a list – as often you might have a locum working late on a Friday evening with possibly just one receptionist when one of these numbers might be required.

Something so simply can go a long way to helping not only the Doctor/Receptionist but also the most importantly – THE PATIENT.

Practical Reception Skills for a New Receptionist


As a new Receptionist you will be very welcomed by your team. Do not be fooled at this new position as being a “nice little job” it is far from it. You will be extremely busy at times, sometimes short-staffed and occasionally come across grumpy patients (and sometimes Doctors). A Doctors Receptionist is like Marmite you either love it or hate it. If you love it you will have a job for life – but be prepared for hard work. But you will also find it very rewarding.

THE WAITING ROOM

The waiting room is the core of your organisation.  It will be the main part of your working environment as a Receptionist and is often the part of a surgery in which the patients spend most time: it follows that the condition of the waiting room can leave a great impression on patients, good or ill.

Before every session you could ensure that:

  • The waiting room is clean and tidy
  • Identify any hazards and report them immediately (health and safety)
  • Ensure that fire notices and leaflets are tidy and up to date.
  • Keep magazines and other reading material fairly up to date.
  • Ensure that there is nothing left lying on the floor that could possibly cause an accident.

FOLLOW UP APPOINTMENTS

If possible arrange the reception area in such a way that patients leaving the surgery must pass by the reception desk after a consultation. Patients are often preoccupied after seeing the doctor and, for example, forget to ask for a follow-up appointment.

PATIENTS

As a Receptionist you main duties will be dealing with numerous patients throughout the day. Remember the patients are the core of the Practice – without patients you would not have a job. You will have patients come into the surgery in person or speak to them over the telephone. You must remain calm at all times, be able to prioritise and ensure that you follow-up every task that you are given. If you are unable to do so then you must ensure that you pass on your tasks to another person or leave a message in the Receptionists message book.

People skills are a essential for this role.

TRANSPORT

As a receptionist you may be required to organise transport for a patient. Ensure that you are aware the procedures for arranging transport and how it works from the patient’s point of view so that you can explain these transport arrangements to them.  Please ensure that you are aware of your surgeries policy on calling 999.

Please see post on Does Your Practice have a 999 Policy http://wp.me/p1zPRQ-iz

APPOINTMENTS

Consultation by appointment rather than queuing in the waiting room is now almost universal. The purpose of an appointments system can be good and bad. A bad system means patients have to wait a long time for an appointment and become frustrated and angry. A good appointment system work to the advantage of both Doctors and Patients.

You as a Receptionist should be encouraged to feedback to the Practice Manager/Doctors in areas that you feel could improve the system. After all it is you as a Receptionist that will identify what is going well and not so well.

Encourage patients to cancel appointments when they are not needed. DNA’s (did not attend) is the biggest problem for patients waiting on appointments – if everyone cancelled their appointment if it was not needed it would free up many appointments over the week and the month. ALWAYS thank a patient when they cancel an appointment – everyone responds well to praise.

Most important remember to cancel the appointment off the computer screen – sometimes a DNA can go against the patient if it has not been taken of the computer screen – as some Practices record all the DNA’s. Some practices even write to Patients when they have had 3 failed DNA’s – and this has lead to bad feelings when the patients have in fact telephoned the surgery to cancel their appointments.

MAIL

As a Receptionist you will probably deal with the practice mail. Incoming mail should be sorted daily and date stamped and any enclosures securely attached – and if any missing items are identified this could be recorded and followed up with the recipient.

PATHOLOGY SPECIMENS

These are samples that are sent daily to the local hospital. Every specimen HAS to be labelled corrected – and this should include the patients name, date of birth and the time the sample was taken. Often busy Doctors do not enclose all of the required information – before the Specimen box is collected by the local courier please check that all the specimens are correctly labelled.

Usually results come through electronically but some Incoming results may still come through as a paper copy – these should be either scanned, or recorded in the patients records – your practice will have a policy on this. For all results than come through via the post they should be date stamped like a normal letter.

PETTY CASH

In Reception you will require to have a small amount of cash. Patients often pay for reports completed by the Doctor, for their passports being signed and often housing letters along with other items.

Ensure that you have change – not just notes.

All petty cash should be kept in a locked petty cash box and topped up weekly or monthly. It is essential that all money taken from the petty cash box has a record showing all expenditure and receipts.

Any money taken from a patient ensure that a recepit is offered. Record the monies in the appropriate place and also record it on the patients records.

AT THE BEGINNING/END OF THE DAY

As a Receptionist you may be one of the first into the building or one of the last to leave. It is advisable to have a check list of thing to do on such occasions.

Speak to your Supervisor/Manager and if your practice has not got such a checklist perhaps with your Manager you could organise such a list – this is particularly very helpful to all new Receptionists when they start.

Some of the things that should be on your list will include:

  • Doors and windows are closed – especially all fire doors.
  • All appropriate lights are switched off
  • Appropriate electrical equipment is switched off
  • IMPORTANT: Answer phone is switched over to out of hours service
  • Alarm is set.
  • Patient notes are securely locked away.

EMERGENCIES

A common source of anxiety to a receptionist is what to do when faced with an emergency. This can be very daunting to a new Receptionist but with good training and Practice Procedures and Polices you will soon become skilled in dealing with such emergencies.

As a Receptionist you may be required to learn basic first aid. Your practice will arrange such training for you.

It may seem very daunting when you first start as a Receptionist – but no one expects you to know everything at once. Take each day as it comes – shadow a fellow Receptionist and ask questions all the time.

In my experience in hiring Receptionist it can take up to 6 months before a Receptionist is really confident – but as we all know nothing stays the same and things within the NHS and Surgeries never stay the same – there are always new procedures and changes to existing policies so at the end of the day we are learning something new all the time.

Helping Patients With Learning Disabilities


People with learning disabilities are a small proportion of the population; however evidence suggests they have greater health needs, in relation to hearing and visual disabilities, hypertension, chronic bronchitis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, gross obesity, spinal deformities, skin disorders and mental health.

Patient can often feel intimidated and often feel confused and may be happy to let their carer speak for them.

They might often see the Doctor or Nurse but leave the room without having communicated what the reason was for attending the Surgery. In addition to these problems many people with learning disabilities may not be able to understand written instruction which can cause them some distress.

Areas to be Considered

Communication

  • Use clear short sentences
  • Check the patient’s comprehension of the conversation by asking questions that will clarify that they have understood.
  • Give clear information. It might be necessary to explain in more detail because of the patient’s level of understanding.
  • If it helps the patient write instructions down.
  • When asking the patient asks a question please give them time to reply.
  • Direct the question at the patient rather than just to their Carer.
  • Use good body language and eye contact at all times.
  • Make them feel at ease.
  • Do not rush them.
  • Give them your full attention.
  • Most of all give them time.

Appointments

  • Consider booking a longer appointment to give both the GP and the patient time to communicate.
  • People with learning disabilities may become anxious in a crowded and noisy waiting room, so appointments booked at quieter times of the day might ease anxiety.
  • Some people with learning disabilities may find it difficult while waiting for their appointment; this may be overcome by booking at the beginning of the appointment list.
  • Continuity is important to people with learning disabilities – if they gel well with a certain Doctor or Nurse wherever possible please try to book them with that Doctor/Nurse.
  • Always give an appointment card for their next appointment; please do not give it verbally.

Know Your Patients

A good receptionist will know her patients – and will understand the patients especially those with special needs. She will know exactly the needs of the patient and will endeavour to do her utmost to ensure that the patient has a good experience when coming to the Surgery and this begins at the front desk.

 

 

Practical Receptionist Skills – Daily Tasks


 

 

The Start of the Day

As a receptionist you might very well be the first person to enter or exit the building. Therefore you will need to know how the alarm works and the code.

Does your Surgery have a protocol(checklist)  on opening and closing the Surgery? If not perhaps you could suggest one. This is very useful for all new staff – it gives you a step by step guide on what to do when opening/closing the Surgery.

The Waiting Room

The waiting room is part of the Receptionist’s working environment and is where the patients will spend part of that time while in the Surgery. The state of the waiting room and its conditions of the waiting room can leave a great impression on patients either positive or negative. Make sure your waiting room leaves a positive impression.

Before Every Surgery (am and pm)

Always check that your waiting room is clean and tidy. This is also important for Health and Safety reasons.

If you identify any hazards report them to your manager or appointed Health and Safety person IMMEDIATELY.

It is essential that all magazines/toys/books are not left lying around on the floor as these can be dangerous and someone could slip and hurt themselves and this could result in a claim again your surgery.

Ensure that you notice board is up to date and all relevant notices are appropriate.

Keep magazines and other reading materials up to date. There is nothing worse than reading a magazine that is 2 years out of date.

Patients are more than happy to bring in used magazines that are only a week or two old.

It has been mentioned on a patient survey that our Practice once held that there were not enough magazines for men in the Surgery – i.e. cars/DIY/Boating/Gardening – perhaps include these in your magazine pile.

Ensure that your patient leaflets are kept up to date and the rack kept tidy.

Patient Notes

If you Doctor is still using patient notes (which is pretty rare these days) ensure that the list corresponds with either the computer or the appointments book. Remember to take out notes of patients that have cancelled and add any new patients booked in immediately. Avoid the situation whereby a patient might be kept waiting in the waiting room because the Doctor did not have their notes.

If a patient phones to cancel an appointment ensure that you delete the appointment immediately. A) This frees up another appointment for another patient

b) If the patient is not taken off the list it looks like they DNA (did not attend) for their appointment and this could go against them.

Incoming Mail

The Receptionist/Secretary/Administrator might have the responsibility of dealing with the daily post. Post will come from two sources – the main post office and the internal mail from the local hospitals and Health Authority.

The normal mail delivery should be date stamped sorted and any enclosures securely attached. They distributed to the appropriate people.

Ensure that you know who to give the post to in the event of a Doctor/Nurse/other is not in surgery due to sickness or holidays.

It is vital that you date stamp any incoming correspondence as this could be vital in the event of any legal action.

Your Surgery will have a protocol on dealing with the “internal post” from the local hospitals and Health Authority. Again it is vital that everything is dated stamped – including all patient results.

Out Going Post

Ensure that all outgoing post has the correct stamp on it.

True Story

‘There was an incident at one of the Surgeries that post had been sent out without stamps on. This resulted in patients having to go to the local sorting office to collect the letters days later, having to pay over the odds for postage and then finding that they had missed appointments that were in the letters.’

Ensure that post is posted on a daily basis – do not leave it for days before posting.

Internal Post / Specimens

Ensure that all specimens are labelled correctly – do not assume that the doctor will have filled it out correctly. Check the following has been completed

Patients Name

Patients Date of Birth

Time sample was taken.

Ensure that all the appropriate samples are correctly placed in the appropriate box for the daily collection.

Samples that are not completed correctly will be returned by the lab – resulting in the patients having to come back to the surgery and having the test taken again.

PETTY CASH

You will need to have a small cash flow in Reception. Patients will often pay for certain forms signed by the Doctor. Ensure that you have change to give.

You might also pay for other services from Petty Cash such as the milkman, stamps or a window cleaner. For any payments made from petty cash ensure that you have a receipt and place with the petty cash.

Ensure that the cash is kept in a locked petty cash box and is topped up every week or month to an agreed figure – known as a “float”.

Emergencies

A common source of anxiety to a receptionist is what to do when faced with an emergency. Occasionally this may happen within the surgery when there are no medical or nursing skills available on the premises, but most often the emergency will come in the form of a phone call. A receptionist should therefore be trained in such event and a protocol set in place. A receptionist should be fully aware of how to contact both GP’s and the ambulance service in an emergency.

At The End of the Day

Like the morning Receptionist you might find yourself being one of the last to leave the surgery at the end of the day.

It is important that the surgery is secure. Some of the important things that need to be checked are

Doors and windows are closed and locked

Lights are all switched off

All appropriate electrical equipment is switched off (check with IT as some computers are left on overnight)

Answerphone is switched on

Telephone redirection is active.

Alarm is set as you leave the building

Again it is advisable to have a checklist as there are probably many more things that need to be done when closing the surgery.

The Start of the Day

As a receptionist you might very well be the first person to enter or exit the building. Therefore you will need to know how the alarm works and the code.

Does your Surgery have a protocol(checklist)  on opening and closing the Surgery? If not perhaps you could suggest one. This is very useful for all new staff – it gives you a step by step guide on what to do when opening/closing the Surgery.

The Waiting Room

The waiting room is part of the Receptionist’s working environment and is where the patients will spend part of that time while in the Surgery. The state of the waiting room and its conditions of the waiting room can leave a great impression on patients either positive or negative. Make sure your waiting room leaves a positive impression.

Before Every Surgery (am and pm)

  • Always check that your waiting room is clean and tidy. This is also important for Health and Safety reasons.
  • If you identify any hazards report them to your manager or appointed Health and Safety person IMMEDIATELY.
  • Ensure that you notice board is up to date and all relevant notices are appropriate.
  • Keep magazines and other reading materials up to date. There is nothing worse than reading a magazine that is 2 years out of date. Patients are more than happy to bring in used magazines that are only a week or two old. It has been mentioned on a patient survey that our Practice once held that there were not enough magazines for men in the Surgery – i.e. cars/DIY/Boating/Gardening – perhaps include these in your magazine pile.
  • Ensure that your patient leaflets are kept up to date and the rack kept tidy.

Patient Notes

If you Doctor is still using patient notes (which is pretty rare these days) ensure that the list corresponds with either the computer or the appointments book. Remember to take out notes of patients that have cancelled and add any new patients booked in immediately. Avoid the situation whereby a patient might be kept waiting in the waiting room because the Doctor did not have their notes.

If a patient phones to cancel an appointment ensure that you delete the appointment immediately.

A) This frees up another appointment for another patient

b) If the patient is not taken off the list it looks like they DNA (did not attend) for their appointment and this could go against them.

Incoming Mail

The Receptionist/Secretary/Administrator might have the responsibility of dealing with the daily post. Post will come from two sources – the main post office and the internal mail from the local hospitals and Health Authority.

The normal mail delivery should be date stamped sorted and any enclosures securely attached. They distributed to the appropriate people.

Ensure that you know who to give the post to in the event of a Doctor/Nurse/other is not in surgery due to sickness or holidays.

It is vital that you date stamp any incoming correspondence as this could be vital in the event of any legal action.

Your Surgery will have a protocol on dealing with the “internal post” from the local hospitals and Health Authority. Again it is vital that everything is dated stamped – including all patient results.

Out Going Post

Ensure that all outgoing post has the correct stamp on it.

True Story

‘There was an incident at one of the Surgeries that post had been sent out without stamps on. This resulted in patients having to go to the local sorting office to collect the letters days later, having to pay over the odds for postage and then finding that they had missed appointments that were in the letters.’

Ensure that post is posted on a daily basis – do not leave it for days before posting.

Internal Post / Specimens

Ensure that all specimens are labelled correctly – do not assume that the doctor will have filled it out correctly. Check the following has been completed

  • Patients Name
  • Patients Date of Birth
  • Date/Time sample was taken.

Ensure that all the appropriate samples are correctly placed in the appropriate box for the daily collection.

Samples that are not completed correctly will be returned by the lab – resulting in the patients having to come back to the surgery and having the test taken again.

PETTY CASH

You will need to have a small cash flow in Reception. Patients will often pay for certain forms signed by the Doctor. Ensure that you have change to give.

You might also pay for other services from Petty Cash such as the milkman, stamps or a window cleaner. For any payments made from petty cash ensure that you have a receipt and place with the petty cash.

Ensure that the cash is kept in a locked petty cash box and is topped up every week or month to an agreed figure – known as a “float”.

Emergencies

A common source of anxiety to a receptionist is what to do when faced with an emergency- especially new Receptionists. Occasionally this may happen within the surgery when there are no medical or nursing skills available on the premises, but most often the emergency will come in the form of a phone call. A receptionist should therefore be trained in such event and a protocol set in place. A receptionist should be fully aware of how to contact both GP’s and the ambulance service in an emergency.

At The End of the Day

Like the morning Receptionist you might find yourself being one of the last to leave the surgery at the end of the day.

It is important that the surgery is secure. Some of the important things that need to be checked are

  • Doors and windows are closed and locked
  • Lights are all switched off
  • All appropriate electrical equipment is switched off (check with IT as some computers are left on overnight)

Answerphone is switched on

Telephone redirection is active.

Alarm is set as you leave the building

Again it is advisable to have a checklist as there are probably many more things that need to be done when closing the surgery.