Questions and Answers / GP Doctor Consultations #Guest Post

I would like to recommend a brilliant site called GP Doctor ( )who have kindly allowed me to share with you one of their posts. As a Receptionist you will all be very familiar with many of the questions below, and maybe even some that you have not come across or had the answer before.

I hope you enjoy it.

Guest Post

GP Doctor Consultations – Question and Answer Session

GP Doctor Consultation Q&A
Patients often have many questions about the GP Doctor consultation process and all of the questions asked below are genuine questions posed by patients. Hopefully it addresses some misconceptions about the GP consultation.

How long does my GP Doctor have to see me? It seems very rushed.

10 minutes. Realistically 7 minutes as the 10 minutes includes calling the patient to the consultation room, referring if required, prescribing and writing our notes (which is very important for your records so there is an accurate picture of your medical history which helps in future consultations).

Why not offer longer appointments?

There is already a recruitment crisis in GP and currently there are not enough GPs in the UK. If we offered longer appointment times, fewer patients would be seen in the day, contributing to longer waiting times for appointments.

Why have I been waiting to be seen? My appointment was 15 minutes ago.

The patient before you may have been very unwell with multiple complicated conditions requiring more time. Furthermore your GP may be running a little late if they had to discuss a patient with hospital specialists or had to deal with other emergency situations or telephone calls. It could also be simply that the patients seen before you presented with multiple issues that they wished resolved.

Is your time more important than mine that I have been waiting so long?

No GP feels their time is more valuable than the patient’s time. We do try to keep to time. However situations out with our control contribute to sometimes running late as also mentioned above.

I am only 5 minutes late. Surely this is not an issue?

Bear in mind that you may only feel it is 5 minutes. However if lots of patients attend late for their appointment your GP is then automatically running late for patients later in the day.

What if I have a list of things?

You may have a list. But if you tell me this at the start of the consultation, I may be better able to help you. Mentioning this at the last minute makes it more difficult as we may have spent a large proportion of time on only 1 issue.

I don’t come to the GP often. Surely I am entitled to have longer or discuss all my issues?

We try to discuss and manage as much as we can in 1 consultation. However bear in mind that there are other people waiting so it doesn’t mean I can solve all your problems in 1 appointment especially if they are more routine matters and you have, for example, 5 things you want addressed.

Years ago my GP had time to have some social chit chat. Why not now?

It’s not that your GP is not interested but is pushed for time and the next patient will already be waiting to be seen. We feel it is important to actively engage with patients and firmly believe that part of this is building a good doctor-patient relationship. Unfortunately due to time constraints we may not be able to talk to you for as long as we would like.

The waiting room only has a few patients in it. Surely the GP must not be very busy?

This shows an effective appointment system that is working well and not large queues still waiting to be seen.

Why can’t my GP see patients constantly in the whole day?

See the other related post “GP Myths – Appointments” which answers this question.

Why do you not know all my medical history when I come to see you?

It may be the first time you have met the doctor and he/she will not have had time before seeing you to go through all of your notes in any great detail. In addition it is better for us to ask you to get accurate information rather than just rely on the notes.

Have you read my notes before seeing me?

With anywhere between 5,000 – 15,000 patients we can’t know everything about your medical history off by heart. We probably haven’t had a chance to look at your notes in great detail before seeing you. However if we need to know more we can ask you or look at your medical notes during the consultation.

The GP called me back today. Why is he/she asking me what I wish to discuss?

We cannot assume why you are here. You may be attending to discuss something else and that’s why even if we have asked you to come back we ask at the beginning the reason for your attendance.

My GP is looking at the computer during the consultation. I’m sure he/she is using Google to diagnose me?

No we are not diagnosing you using our computer. We need to look at the computer for your medical notes. We also may use the computer to check doses and local guidelines regarding drug prescriptions.

Why is my GP asking me what is wrong? Doesn’t he/she know? I just want a diagnosis.

If your GP asks something similar to “What do you think may be causing your symptoms?”. It isn’t because he/she wants you to self-diagnose. You may have thoughts about what you feel may be causing your symptoms or condition. Everyone has thoughts about what may be wrong. If we know this we can answer questions you may have regarding this or to address misconceptions you may have. Furthermore it also helps us identify how much detail we need to give as you may already know a great deal about your symptoms/condition. If we don’t know what you think may be causing your symptoms you may leave the consultation feeling that your questions haven’t been answered or that you are adamant it is something else. We don’t want you to leave thinking “My GP told me I have X condition. I think I have Y condition”.

Why does my GP ask so many questions rather than just tell me what is wrong?

Most diagnosis by all doctors is reached from information gathered from the patient. Therefore it is important that we gather as much relevant information as necessary to do this. Investigations can be helpful to diagnose but remember most diagnosis is reached from talking to you. In addition we do not have access to immediate scans and blood results.

My GP looks at a book for drug doses. Why?

We can’t remember all drugs doses and sometimes have to look these up. It’s better to be accurate if we are unsure. In addition there are multiple doses for children depending on their age.

I have been asked to come back for a follow up. Should I?

Yes. If your GP feels you should attend again to review your condition it is important to do this. This will also prevent asking for an emergency appointment in case things haven’t improved. If your GP has asked that you come back in a few weeks he/she may also want to see how your condition is evolving or discuss blood results that you have yet to have done.

I came back a few weeks later and another GP said I had something else? Was I misdiagnosed?

Not necessarily. Symptoms evolve. We can only base our diagnosis based on what you present with at the time of seeing us. Symptoms and conditions evolve over time.

I came about my sore foot. Why am I having my BP taken or asked about smoking or if I am up to date with my smears?

We may try to opportunistically help with health promotion. You may not attend to see us often and it may be the only chance we get to discuss these areas which can help improve your health.

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.