My Experience with Dr’s Receptionists in South Africa #Guest Post #1/2

My blog is mainly about my experiences working within the NHS in the UK as a Receptionist and then as a Manager highlighting the important of Patient Care and how important it is to reward valuable hard working staff with the appropriate training. I am delighted that I have followers from over 160 countries that read my blogs on a regular basis, and I have often wondered what the Patient Care is like in their own countries. I would like to thank a friend for answering these thoughts in two different posts; she is an expat firstly moving to South Africa in 2011. For me it just highlights how important good Customer Care is, and often the answers can be found with the Receptionists or the Practice Manager. As you will read, sometimes it just takes a bit of time, effort and compassion to turn a difficult time for the Patient into a less stressful one. My Guest Posts are proving to be very popular and I would like to thank my friend for sharing her experiences with us. **************************** Guest Post #1 images My experience with Dr’s Receptionists in South Africa. One of the biggest issues we had to deal with when we started our lives as expats in South Africa in January 2011 was the medical aid. This is something we weren’t used to doing, having moved from the UK. Trying to explain to the medical aid company that while their vitality points and credit card was a very good idea, we weren’t switching from one scheme to another, so therefore the ‘extras’ at that stage were of no interest. 8 days after arriving in South Africa the oldest child who moved with us was rushed into hospital after being hit in the neck with a cricket ball, our medical aid hadn’t been registered on the system and so began a very long and complicated matter to recover the money we’d been made to hand over on our American Express card on arrival at the hospital before we were allowed to see our son. It took around 6 months to sort and during that time I received phone calls from all the various departments demanding payment and I’m afraid to say the day the receptionist at the hospital called me to tell me I’d under paid by around £10, having handed over several thousand for scans, x-rays, ambulance, paramedics, doctors, medication, you name it, it is charged individually. I flipped my lid and screamed at her ‘some bloody help would be nice instead of just all these demands’ And that was the end of visiting the Dr’s and dentists for a while as I just couldn’t cope with what to do and how to do it, until the youngest child broke his arm and needed surgery. I was much more assertive. I refused to pay any money until I knew my son was being seen and once he’s been given pain relief, then, I firmly told the receptionist that ‘I will open a file, in the meantime here is my medical aid card and no, I haven’t had time to get any authorised as I don’t know what the doctor wants to do, do you?’ This was a fast learning curve, but I still had no idea how to use the medical aid and the Dr’s and the dentists for none emergencies. I visited a dentist, asked if they accepted the medical aid, but didn’t know I had to ask if they worked within our medical aid fees and was left paying nearly half the bill. I suffer with migraines, the stress was making them worse, along with the heat, so I decided I should visit the local doctors and try to work out what I needed to do in order to make sure that I wasn’t out of pocket financially and that when I had to pay for hospital visits, how to get reimbursed. So pitching up at the surgery I asked the receptionist if she could explain to me step by step what I needed to do and how. She could see I was still confused and called for the practice manager who took me to her office, informed me they worked with my medical aid, they worked within the payment scheme, there were no fees or excess to pay and checked our current balance online for me. She then informed me we were actually in what is known as the payment gap and I did I have the receipts from the dentists? If so I could log them online and I’d be out the payment gap and then our bills would be paid as normal. She then informed me that had we chosen to keep our son, with the cricket ball incident, in hospital over night rather than bringing him home, because we thought it would cost us more money, that all costs would have come out of the inpatient fund which is unlimited and not our out-patient funds that were for doctors and dentists. She also explained the allowances for medication, dental and opticians and told me to come back to her if I had any further problems. Sending me back to the receptionist who made me a cup of coffee and squeezed me in there and then with the doctor as she herself thought I may need to speak to someone about my stress levels. I could not thank the receptionist and the practice manager enough and whenever I visited in the future the receptionist would chat with me, ask after my husband and the children and tell me to help myself to the pot of coffee whilst waiting for the doctor. *****************************   Follow my friend’s experiences when she relocated to Dubai  #2 to follow

Managers/Supervisor Training: Registering A New Patient

Registering a New Patient

Every surgery will have new patients registering on a regular basis.

How do you register your new patients?

When I first started working at the Surgery we used to give patients a “new patients” form to complete.

The patient would fill in the form hand it back to the receptionist we would then process it and request their notes from their previous Doctors.

Sometimes we would not see that patient for a long time, other times they would be regular patients to the surgery.

I was made up to Surgery Supervisor – one of my roles was to look at ways of improving the services in the Surgery.

One of them was when registering new patients.

When a new patient came into register I would take them aside to one of the rooms. I would ask them to complete the form(s) once for each member of their family and I left them for a few minutes.

When I went back I quickly checked that the forms had all been filled out correctly – this saved time if they had not.

Something very important is that to remember than not everyone can read and write. It is amazing just how many people I came across that could not do that. (please read blog How to deal with people who have difficulty reading and writing)

When I had checked that the forms were all completed correctly I would have a look to see who/ how many were in the family


  • Was it just a single person?
  • Was it a couple?
  • Was it a family – if so how many children did they have?
  • Or did they have an elderly parent living at home with them?
  • Were they a Carer for someone?


  • Well by determining this it would give me some idea of who they might want to see if they needed to come to the surgery.


Practice Nurses

Health Visitors

District Nurses



Groups that the Surgery organised such as the Carers Group


By finding out this information I could tell the patient a bit more about the practice. Information that would be best suited to them.

I could explain about the Doctors, there was a Doctor that was extremely good with

There was a Doctor that was excellent in dermatology and a Doctor that dealt in paediatrics. I explained that we had a female doctor but she only worked part-time and told them the days she worked.  Often the new patient might be pregnant and I would tell them about the services we had and when our weekly anti natal clinics was held.  If they had an elderly person living with them or a disabled child/adult I told them about the Carers Group when held at the Surgery.

N.B. This was before Practices had Practice Booklets. So no other information was   available at this stage.

I would tell them our policy of requesting  a prescription. Told them what times were best to call for appointments and home visits and best times to avoid. I explained that we were closed at lunchtime but open until 7.00pm.

I would try to give the new patient as much information as I could that was best suited to them. After all a single man would not be interested much in our anti natal clinic would he?

But the biggest help would be when the new patient they had some sort of idea on what
they were asking for and when this perhaps was at our busiest time i.e first thing in the morning it certainly helped the receptionist as she could often deal with the request quickly and efficiently. Rather that the patient asking several questions over the phone – which I had been able to answer when the registered.

Therefore in my experience spending a bit of time with someone at the start saves so much
time further down the line.