As a Doctors Receptionist you will have a close working relationship with your local hospital(s). Working for both Doctors Surgeries and Hospitals I can say that their systems are quite different. Not that anyone of them is right or wrong – it is just down to the type of work that they both do. But one thing that they both have in common is patients, and at the end of the day it is vital that you and their patients get the best possible treatment. So communication between your surgery and the hospital is vital for the wellbeing of your patients.
The surgery would often work closely with the outpatients department in the hospital, as well as the labs – checking up on patient results, sending in samples etc.
You at the surgery will all have come across the sample that has been sent in without the correct information on. The doctor or the receptionist has forgotten to enter the patient’s details correctly onto the specimen bottle – or perhaps the lab technician just would be unable to read the doctors handwriting although computers have come a long way in making this a lot easier to get right.
I have been “that” receptionist that receives the call from the lab saying that they cannot accept a sample as it was not labelled correctly – I like many did not understand why the labs just could not take the details from me – after I had all the details of the patient in front of me.
The outcome of this would have resulted in the patient being called back into surgery to have another sample taken to be sent off to the labs again.
As I worked my way up to a Manager these incidents still occurred from time to time, I had receptionist complaining that they felt the hospital was being unreasonable when they offered to give over the patients details.
So, I arranged a visit to the local hospital. The first visit was to the laboratories – I brought along the supervisors from each team of Receptionists. We spent several hours with some very helpful members of the management team at the hospital and they went through the whole journey of when the sample reached the hospital via courier from us at the surgery.
It was amazing watching the process of these samples. What did surprise us was the amount of samples that they received in from each and every surgery in the local area – and some from outside the area too. This highlighted the importance of having each and every sample labelled correctly – and the awful outcome that could occur if one sample was given the wrong details.
Meeting the team at the laboratory was lovely; it was nice to put a face to the voice that for years we had only spoken to on the telephone. We both listened to each other’s points of view, and both sides admitted that there were definitely areas that they could improve on the main one better communication between the two units.
For us the biggest lesson learned was that each and every sample would be checked at the surgery before it was handed over to the courier before heading for the hospital. The Doctors were reminded regularly about the importance of completing the sample bottles correctly – and most importantly in handwriting that could easily be read by the laboratory technicians.
We discussed our visit at our next receptionists meeting. Because of the volume of receptionists that we had it was impossible for them all to visit the hospital, but it was important for them to learn from our visit. This was also something that I would discuss with every new receptionist.
A month after our visit I phoned and spoke to the member of staff that had been our guide for that afternoon and he also agreed that things had become a lot better, samples were being sent it properly labelled, and if there were any queries it was a pleasure to phone and speak to someone who they knew. Our Supervisors also said that communication between the two units had improved a lot.
About 6 months later I organised a similar visit this time around the outpatients department. I took the supervisors along with me again, this time they were shown around the department and how the hospital dealt with a patient’s referral letter when it arrived from the surgery. Again, communication was greatly improved after this meeting.
So, much so we invited a couple of the ladies from the outpatients department to come and spend a few hours with us at the surgery, sitting with the secretaries and the receptionists seeing for themselves just how busy and hectic it was. They too found it an extremely helpful exercise.
They agreed that they never really fully appreciated how busy it was at the surgery, and again communication between the two departments was greatly improved.