Managers Training: The Other Side of the Desk


When managing staff it is always good to give them feedback. Yearly appraisals are a good opportunity for this but why leave it once a year?

Here is a little exercise I used to carry out on my Reception staff.

Sit in your Reception area at the busiest time of day. Observe what is happening in your Reception area – see how the receptionist deal with patients how they cope with the busiest time of day and how they copes with the pressure that the busy time can bring.

Put yourself in the place of a patient – see it from their eyes and ask yourself how do they see our Surgery?

Have a note-book with you and take notes – but the most important part of the exercise is not only to pick up on any negative issues but also highlight the positive issues too.

What should you be looking for:

  1.  Is patient confidentiality being broken? Can people in the waiting room hear conversations from the Reception Desk? Patient confidentiality it vital in any Practice – and more so at the front desk.
    People in the waiting room can often hear conversations at the front desk. Make
    sure you staff use as little personal information as possible. Make sure that
    all your staff has the appropriate training on Patient Confidentiality. (see
    blog on A Quick Confidentiality Checklist. http://t.co/S3E94mU8)
  2.  How does the Receptionist interact with the patients? Do they have good eye contact? Are they polite and always helpful? It is easy to be short with patients when you have a queue of people at the front desk. Training in dealing with such times is vital – train your staff in dealing with such times –
    how to move patients on quickly without being rude or appearing that they are
    not caring. A smile and a thank you go a long way.
  3. How does the Receptionist answer the phone? Is it answered quickly enough? Does the Receptionist deal with the call efficiently? Always make sure that your staff answers the phone with good morning/good afternoon – the name of the surgery and their own name. Staff than give their name takes ownership of the call more than those that do not give their name. Again, if they are in ear shot of the waiting room it is important that they remember Patient Confidentiality.
  4. What are the other staff doing whilst the busy time is happening – are they helping out?  Often in Surgeries you have Receptionists at the front desk and others doing other things such as admin, typing, prescriptions – have you got a contingency plan for such busy times – if someone is busy on the front desk or on the phone do you have someone who can come and help out for short periods of time.
  5. Can you hear conversations between Receptionists behind the desk? When the quieter times come Receptionists often will have a little chat – but they should be made aware to be careful on what they are chatting about – I had an incident where 3 Receptionists were discussing a TV programme that was on the night before. They were discussing the programme about Breast Cancer and about a lady having terminal Cancer – they talked in-depth about the programme – talking about people who had lost relative/friends to the horrible illness. What there were not aware of was a patient was sitting listening to them in the waiting room that had just recently been diagnosed with Breast Cancer – she found the conversation very upsetting. Whilst I was doing
    this exercise I also heard Receptionists discussing an issue that could have
    upset a patient in the waiting room.
  6. Is the Reception area being kept clean and tidy? It is important to
    keep your reception area clean and tidy. Not just for a good impression but for
    Health and Safety reasons too – magazines, children’s toys left lying around on
    the floor is dangerous – someone could easily slip and fall.
  7. Are the patients kept waiting for long periods of time (often a problem in surgeries) This unfortunately happens in every surgery. Observe how your patients feel about it – and how your Receptionists deal with the patients if they come back to the desk to complain/enquire about their appointment running late. Do you have a policy on Doctors/Nurses running late?Do you have a surgery policy about Doctors/Nurses running late?

After you have done your observation bring them to your next staff meeting.

I always find the best way to approach this is to tell your staff that it was not an exercise to “catch them out” but an exercise to find if and where improvements can be made.

Always start with the positive notes you have:

  •  How well you thought the receptionist dealt with a certain patient/incident.
  • How good their telephone manner is.
  • How lovely and tidy the reception areas looks.
  • How pleased you were to see others helping each other at the
    busiest time.
  • How good they are with dealing with confidentiality.

Then

If there are any (and I am sure there will be) go onto the negative things that you found – discuss them and ask your team to give their opinion. Ask if there is a better way it can be dealt with. Include them in any decision-making. Include them in your findings.

Staff do not like change so I always used to say – we can change it, try it and if it does not work we can look at it again.  This always used to work.

Make minutes of the meeting – ensure that you record any changes that are going to be made and ensure that everyone has a copy – including those that were unable to attend the meeting.

Turn those negative into positives.

 

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved
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Confidentiality: Assessing Patient Information by Using DOB (date of birth)


In today’s society with confidentiality a wide and often difficult issue we often have to be seen to minimise the use of patient information. Simply by repeating a patients name or address often breaks confidentiality. Most of the time this will not cause a problem, but there are ALWAYS the exception.

Ways that confidentiality can be broken can include:

  • Asking a patient for their name or address at the reception desk and being overheard by a 3rd party.
  • Repeating a patients name or address over the telephone and being overheard by a 3rd party.
  • Writing patient information down where a 3rd party can read it.
  • Giving patient information to a 3rd party i.e. husband/wife/mother/father/son/daughter or other family members or friends of the patient without their consent. This also includes outside agencies.

By using the patients date of birth (DOB) you are not giving away any confidential information to anyone listening to your conversation. This can be a good way of dealing with such an issue at a busy reception desk.

By entering the DOB into the computer it will identify if this patient has already been registered. By entering a name onto the computer, which has another way of spelling the name to the one already registered will not identify that this patient is already registered.

When a patient is entered onto the system twice this creates a duplicate patient – and it means that one patient will have two set of “notes” on the computer system. This could lead to serious problems because if the patient is brought up on the system by their name and accordingly to which way the name is spelt important information could be stored on the “other duplicate” set of notes. This could be blood results, letters from the hospital etc.

Duplicate patients are often created when a patient is registered at the practice before then moved away and returned to the area and wanting to re register at the practice again. If DOB was entered it would straight away identify that the patient has already been a patient and their records can be “re-opened”. If the name is entered and their original name was entered by My John David Smith and when they came to re-register and they put My John Smith this may not identify that he had been registered in the past.
This would result in them being registered again thus creating a duplicate of notes.

Below are some examples of how ONE patient could be entered into the computer system in more than one way:

  1. Carol Ann Linch          DOB 29.5.86
  2. Carol Anne Linch        DOB 29.5.86
  3. Carole Ann Linch        DOB 29.5.86
  4. Carol Anne Linch        DOB 29.5.86
  5. Carol Ann Lynch         DOB 29.5.86
  6. Carol Anne Lynch       DOB 29.5.86
  7. Carol Ann Lynch         DOB 29.5.86
  8. Carol Anne Lynch       DOB 29.5.86
  9. Carol Lynch                  DOB 29.5.86
  10. Carole Lynch                DOB 29.5.86

And so on and on…………………………

10 Ways that a patients name could be entered – BUT ONLY ONE DATE OF BIRTH

Putting in the wrong spelling will create a problem, the computer will be unable to find the patient or worse still bring up the wrong patient. Think of a surgery they could have 10,000 patients or even a hospital with thousands on their computer system – just think how many might share the same name or have similar names – but how many would share the same DOB and the same name?

By asking the patient for their DOB you can bring the patients details up straight away. If by chance there is more than one patient with the same DOB – then ask the patient to confirm their address – by asking the patient especially over the telephone you are not divulging any information – it is a bit different if they are at the front desk – so remember if you are asking them to be discreet.

Often you will have a father and son or mother and daughter with the same first name as well as their surname, this in the past has caused the wrong information to be used – for example:

  • Mr John Smith    DOB      26.5.57    (father)
  • Mr John Smith    DOB      18.8.81    (son)

Simple spelt names like Smith can be spelt differently i.e. Smyth, Smith. Green, can also be spelt as Greene, and there are many other names that can sound the same but be spelt differently.

By entered the DOB you would have brought up the correct patient.

By entering DOB when scanning will also minimise errors, in the past patient information has been scanned into the wrong patients notes.

If you do enter information onto the computer ALWAY check you have the correct spelling – please do not assume you have it right. If in doubt always ask for the DOB.

Sending out Letters to Patients


I had a frantic phone call one Friday evening from a good friend – she was in a right panic. She had received a letter from her Surgery (not the one that I worked at) asking her to make an appointment to see the Doctor regarding her recent smear test.

She didn’t know what to do; she had in previous years had abnormal smear results and of course was now thinking the worse.

I tried my best to console her – but she had made her mind up – she convinced herself that the Doctor was calling her in to tell her she had cancer.

As you can imagine she had a very stressful and sleepless weekend.

Monday morning came and she rang the Surgery – at first she was told that there were not appointments that day – but she insisted on seeing the Doctor.

Her appointment was for 11.00 – she was at the surgery at 10.00 – she sat and waited – she was called in to see the Doctor for him to tell her that the smear had not been taken correctly and it would need to be repeated. That was it – it needed to be repeated – more than likely the nurse may  not have taken it correctly.

To say she was over the moon was an understatement. But the worry she went through that weekend was awful.

So, it got me thinking – how many other people received letters at the weekend that could cause worry and concerns – having to wait until Monday morning before speaking to a Health Care Professional? Probably quite a few I should imagine.

So, I spoke to the Partners at our next staff meeting and we all agreed that such letters that were not urgent and could cause concern to patients or their families would be posted on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully arriving before the weekend and if the patient was concerned at all they could phone or make an appointment to speak to or see a Doctor

If there was an urgent letter that needed to go out on either the Thursday or Friday and the Doctors felt it might cause some concerns one of the Doctors would phone and explain the letter was on its way and if the patient had any concerns they would try to answer their questions.

True Story

I recently spoke to a mum who young son was having various tests done at her local hospital. She received a telephone call from the consultant at 7.30 on a Friday evening asking her how her son was – he asked her if he had got any worse, he asked if he had been with any cattle she was a bit alarmed at the call. He asked her to bring him in again on the Monday for some more blood tests. She admitted that she was a bit concerned – more blood test – but put it to the back of her mind for the weekend. Her and her son had a fun packed weekend which she said was one of the best.

She went with her mum to see the Consultant on the Monday they he gave them the devastating news that her son had cancer – the consultant had known that on the Friday when he spoke to her.

This consultant had given this thought – he wanted to spare her the heartache for a few more days – he knew by telling her the news on the Friday that her world would come crashing down – he knew she was on her own at the time – he spared that until he had her face to face and could go through the options and treatment for her little boy. This is something she is eternally grateful to that Consultant for.

It’s not what we do but how we do it that can have such a big impact on people.

 

Does your Practice send out recall letters on a Friday so the patients will receive them on a Saturday?

Giving Out Results Over The Telephone


As a Medical Receptionist you are bound by patient confidentiality. It can at times bedifficult and can almost look as you are being most unhelpful.

It is vital that you have a good understanding of patient confidentiality – understand what you can and cannot say or do.  If you are unsure of a situation ask someone who knows before you give out any information.

In my experience when working in Reception I was amazed at the lengths people would go to try to access patient information – wives phoning for their husbands results. Mothers phoning up for their daughter’s pregnancy results, mothers phoning up for the “children’s” results – where the children were over 21 years of age and capable of doing so themselves.

I had a woman on the phone asking for her daughter’s pregnancy results. I explained that due to patient confidentiality that I was unable to discuss the results with her. She got pretty abusive – when that didn’t work she said that her daughter was at college and couldn’t phone. I asked if her daughter could phone in her lunch hour and again my head was bitten off. I stayed calm throughout the conversation and the mother didn’t get the results.

Then 10 minutes later she phoned again (obviously hoping to speak to a different Receptionist) But she got me again. This time she tried to make out that she was the daughter phoning (the patient).  It was quite obvious that I was talking to the same person as I did 10 minutes ago. But I could not prove it.

Question: As a Receptionist what would you have done in this situation?

Answer: You could ask the patient some questions to ascertain that they in fact were the patient.

  • You could ask the caller their DOB (date of birth) This one is not 100% full proof as for example the mother of the daughter would have had this information.

You could ask the patient when the test was done. Ask the caller when they had the test done? Asking them the time their appointment was?

 Ask the caller to confirm their mobile telephone number. You could ask the patient to confirm their mobile telephone number – not everyone would readily know another person’s mobile telephone off by heart.

You could ask the caller who they had seen in Surgery last. If the caller had been in to see a Doctor regarding the tests you could ask the caller who they came in to see regarding the tests.

Of course the caller might in fact know all of the above. You have all the patient information on the screen in front of you and there could be several questions that you could ask to confirm you are speaking to the patient.

If they are unable to answer your questions and you feel in any way that the caller is not in fact the patient you should not give out the results.

You could say to the caller that you do not have the results in front of you and that you will call them back or get the Doctor/Nurse to call them back. That way if the Doctor/Nurse calls the patient back they will be speaking directly to the patient themselves.

If you have followed some of the above or followed confidentiality procedures that you’re Practice gives and you give out results to someone other than the patient you cannot be held responsible. You have taken ever possible action to ensure that the caller was in fact the patient.

If you are anyway unsure that the results you have given to the caller might not be the patient – but could not actually prove it – then make a record of the call. Just say that you gave the results to the caller – you suspected that the caller might not have been the patient but they supplied you with the information you asked for.

Always cover yourself my making a record of any doubts you might have.

It is vital that you have a good understanding of Patient Confidentiality and what you can and cannot say.

 

Sending out Letters to Patients


I had a frantic phone call one Friday evening from a good friend – she was in a right panic. She had received a letter from her Surgery (not the one that I worked at) asking her to make an appointment to see the Doctor regarding her recent smear test.

She didn’t know what to do; she had in previous years had abnormal smear results and of course was now thinking the worse.

I tried my best to console her – but she had made her mind up – she convinced herself that the Doctor was calling her in to tell her she had cancer.

As you can imagine she had a very stressful and sleepless weekend.

Monday morning came and she rang the Surgery – at first she was told that there were not appointments that day – but she insisted on seeing the Doctor.

Her appointment was for 11.00 – she was at the surgery at 10.00 – she sat and waited – she was called in to see the Doctor for him to tell her that the smear had not been taken correctly and it would need to be repeated. That was it – it needed to be repeated – more than likely the nurse may  not have taken it correctly.

To say she was over the moon was an understatement. But the worry she went through that weekend was awful.

So, it got me thinking – how many other people received letters at the weekend that could cause worry and concerns – having to wait until Monday morning before speaking to a Health Care Professional? Probably quite a few I should imagine.

So, I spoke to the Partners at our next staff meeting and we all agreed that such letters that were not urgent and could cause concern to patients or their families would be posted on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, hopefully arriving before the weekend and if the patient was concerned at all they could phone or make an appointment to speak to or see a Doctor

If there was an urgent letter that needed to go out on either the Thursday or Friday and the Doctors felt it might cause some concerns one of the Doctors would phone and explain the letter was on its way and if the patient had any concerns they would try to answer their questions.

True Story

I recently spoke to a mum who young son was having various tests done at her local hospital. She received a telephone call from the consultant at 7.30 on a Friday evening asking her how her son was – he asked her if he had got any worse, he asked if he had been with any cattle she was a bit alarmed at the call. He asked her to bring him in again on the Monday for some more blood tests. She admitted that she was a bit concerned – more blood test – but put it to the back of her mind for the weekend. Her and her son had a fun packed weekend which she said was one of the best.

She went with her mum to see the Consultant on the Monday they he gave them the devastating news that her son had cancer – the consultant had known that on the Friday when he spoke to her.

This consultant had given this thought – he wanted to spare her the heartache for a few more days – he knew by telling her the news on the Friday that her world would come crashing down – he knew she was on her own at the time – he spared that until he had her face to face and could go through the options and treatment for her little boy. This is something she is eternally grateful to that Consultant for.

It’s not what we do but how we do it that can have such a bit impact on people.

 

Does your Practice send out recall letters on a Friday so the patients will receive them on a Saturday?

Dealing With A Difficult Call


Being on the front line you will often come across difficult people. It might be face to face or over the telephone. But the most important thing is you keep your cool. Do not rise to any argument . By keeping your cool it often results in the person apologising for their bad behaviour.

Here are a few tips on how to deal with a difficult call.

  • Always smile as you speak and the caller can hear the warmth of your tone.
  • NEVER be sarcastic
  • Let the caller let off steam, then find out how to help them – try not to interrupt.
  • Be patient and offer apologies wherever possible.
  • Ask short specific questions to obtain facts – never judge.
  • Always take the name of the caller, the nature of the call and a contact telephone number. If in the event that you get cut off you can call the caller back – it won’t look like you have hung up.
  • If recording a complaint always date, time and add your name and enter the nature of the complaint.
  • If the caller wants to register a complaint arrange for them to receive a complaints form.
  • Log the complaint (do you know if your organisation has a procedure for this?).  Does another department need to be aware of the complaint?
  • Inform a senior member of your reception team – give him/her a brief summary of what happened. He/she should then speak to the appropriate person often a complaint will come straight through to Management and if they are aware of the complaint it makes it easier to deal with.

DO NOT TAKE THE CALL PERSONALLY – USUALLY A DIFFICULT CALL IS DIRECTED AT THE FIRST PERSON AVAILABLE.

Passing A Verbal Message or Telephone Call


When putting a telephone call through to another person you must remember to do the following:

  • Always ask the caller’s name
  • Ask the callers company / nature of their call.
  • Take their telephone number if you feel that there might be a delay in putting the call through – that way if you get cut off you have a contact name and number.

When you put the call through to the person the call is for it is important to prepare them for the call by letting them know who it is on the phone and the nature of the call.

There is nothing worse that a person receiving a call from reception and just being told “there is a call for you” and the call is put straight through. The person receiving the call doesn’t know if the call is a member of staff, a customer, or a rep or a company just touting for business.  This always gets the call off to a bad start. .

The caller starts a conversation believing that the person taking the call is aware of whom they are because they have already given their details to the receptionist, they presume the receptionist has done her job and passed on this information to the person taking the call. There is nothing more embarrassing than half way through a call the person taking the call has to ask whom they are speaking to – and it is very unprofessional. Not a good impression to give!!

If you are phoning through to let someone know there is a visitor in reception remember to say that they are in reception. Often the receptionist will phone and say I have a Mr Jones to speak to you – they put the phone down and you get a dead line but you presume you have been cut off – and wait on them phoning back – but what really has happened is the receptionist means that Mr Jones is waiting in reception.

                                             REMEMBER: FIRST IMPRESSION

A caller will always judge your organisation by the service that they receive. A telephone call is quite often the first point of contact they will have with your organisation.

 GET IT RIGHT