Receptionist Training: Young Patients and Confidentiality


  •  HOW CAN WE HELP YOUNG PATIENTS

 It is important that a young patient feels confident to be able to
speak to a Health Care Professional in confidence.

 

Young patients also have the right to confidentiality! Often it is difficult when a young patient around the age of 15 years comes into the surgery alone. They often don’t want their parents to know that they have been to the Surgery. Often it is of a personal nature. So what happens when the Surgery need to get in touch with the young patient:

Do not phone the patient on their home phone (if possible)

This often leads to questions by parents as to why the surgery is phoning – especially if the patient has not told their parents they have been to the surgery.

Never leave a message on the home answer phone

Again, this will lead to questions by parents.

Use Mobile Telephones wherever possible.

It might be a policy of your Practice not to use mobile telephone numbers. But in the case of a young patient it is advisable to use a mobile number if you have one. This is one safe way of being able to speak direct to the patient – in confidence.

When is a good time to phone?

Ask the Young patient when would be the best time to phone. You don’t want to call when they might be in school or perhaps at home.

If a young patient comes in alone for an appointment

If a young patient wants to make an appointment and wants to be seen on their own please check with you Doctor/Supervisor/Practice Manager that they can be seen on their own. Your Practice should have guidelines on young patients.

At the time of the appointment check if they have a mobile telephone number – this will allow you direct access to the patient if you or a healthcare professional should need to contact them.

If Tests are being carried out

Make an appointment for them to receive the results. Normally we ask
patients to telephone for results – giving a young patient results can often lead to confusion and the correct procedures not taken. An appointment can give the Doctor/Nurse a chance to make sure they understand. It is amazing how many young patient do not understand medical terminology – I have had young patients believe that a “positive” pregnancy test means that they are NOT pregnant. Positive meaning it is good that they are not pregnant.  Do not assume that they understand – always clarify that they understand – explain exactly what the results mean. If as a Receptionist you are giving out a pregnancy result to a young patient and the test is “positive” follow-up by saying:

“Your pregnancy test is positive – that means you are pregnant – would you like me to make an appointment for you to see the Doctor”?    or

“Your pregnancy test is negative – this means that you are not pregnant”

When a Young Patient wants to book an appointment.

There are several things take into consideration when a young patient comes into the surgery to book an appointment:

  •  The young patient may not want their parents knowing that they are going to see the doctor.
  • Young patients are often nervous about seeing the Doctor.
  •  It might have taken a lot of guts for them to come in to book the appointment – maybe it might be of a sensitive nature – something that has taken them time to come in about. So don’t scare them off before they have a chance to see the Doctor/Nurse.
  •  Always try to fit them in when it is convenient with them – if they don’t want their parents knowing it won’t help giving them a tea time appointment – parents might ask questions to where they have been.
  •  Offer an appointment straight from school – or perhaps in their lunch break. Ask the young patient when it would be best for them to come to the surgery.
  • If you feel that the young patient is nervous see if you can fit them in there and then (if you have a surgery going on) – often they will book an appointment and not attend – their nerves get the better of them and they do not come back.
  •  If it is a male young patient try to book them in with a male doctor and a female doctor with a female patient. This will help if the appointment is of a sensitive nature.
  •  If the young patient comes to the desk with a friend – you can always mention that the young patient is welcome to bring their friend in with them to see the Doctor. They sometimes appreciate the support from a friend.

And most important – Young patient have the right to confidentiality – if they are old enough to come on their own then they should have the respect of confidentiality like any other patient. Sometimes Parents get to know that the young patient has been to the see the Doctor and will phone the surgery to ask what they have been in for – you do not have any right to give out any information. So be very careful. If young patients wanted their parents to know they were seeing the Doctor they would have told them.

Make sure you have the correct training in a situation where a parent calls the Surgery and asks why their child has been seen in the surgery. It may happen so be prepared.

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Patients: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.


The events described in my blog are based on my experiences as a Receptionist and  Manager. For obvious reasons of privacy and confidentiality I have made certain
changes, altered identifying features and fictionalised some aspects, but it remains an honest reflection of life as a Receptionist and Manager working within the Healthcare  sector.

             Patients come in all shapes and sizes – literary.

In all my years working in the NHS I would actually say that 90% of patients were always courteous, friendly and extremely grateful. There of course were the other 10% those that would complain and were always ready for an argument. Unfortunately these people can spoil any good organisation they come across.

One thing I learnt working within the healthcare sector is that you have to learn very quickly not to be judgemental.

I believe that you should always treat people as you would want to be treated.

I quickly found the best way forward was to gain the trust of the patients. Listen to their needs; get to know them as people – after all everyone is different. Let them get to know you as a person. The trust soon builds up – but it has to work two ways and when it does it works well. The patient won’t push their boundaries and they will trust you to do the best for them – and you do.         

On a daily basis receptionists will come across people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Receptionists will come across people who are often frightened, anxious, nervous, or just downright rude. That is the nature of the business that we are in.

The key to dealing with these people especially is the rude patients is to remember that there might be a reason why they are being rude – now don’t get me wrong rude is not acceptable – but in some cases these people might be in pain, be worried about what might be wrong with them or perhaps a loved one – maybe worried about the unknown or recently suffered a bereavement. You can’t always see on the outside what is going on in the inside.

But of course there are those patients who are just downright rude – and when I trained new staff the best possible advice I could give them was to try to not to take rudeness personally. Rude people are usually rude wherever they go – it’s not just the Doctors Surgery they keep their rudeness for.

The first rule I would advise a Receptionist when they were faced with a rude patient at the desk would not to answer back. Don’t get involved in a disagreement or argument. Don’t fuel an argument. But it is important to listen to what the patient is saying.

Sometimes a person just needs to let off steam – not right but it happens – and nothing more will fuel an angry person is another person arguing back. So, listen, apologise if the fault was on our part and after a while you will find that the rude/angry person starts to cool down – they have nothing to fuel their anger – and usually the Receptionist will find that the patient will actually end up apologising for their outburst or anger.

Another thing is to sit and think to yourself – this person is not directing this at me “Ann”
they are venting their anger at the “Receptionist” the person sitting in front of them and if someone else was sitting here behind the Reception desk they would be saying exactly the same to the that person. I always found this a good one to remember when someone was being rude to me at the desk.

But if this continues as sometimes it did 3 or 4 times in a morning or afternoon you can soon start to take it personally.  I always would advise a Receptionist if she ever found herself in a situation that she couldn’t handle then she should walk away from it and pass the patient over to someone else to deal with. We all have had to do that at sometime. We all came across situations they we felt was out of our control – but it was the way you dealt with it that was important.

At times we also had to face violent patients – I am pleased to say that our Surgery didn’t have many of these – but when we did it was unpleasant not only for staff but for other patients in the surgery too. In all my time there were only a couple of times we had to call the police – thankfully. But unfortunately there were Surgeries not so far from us that had that had violent patients to deal with on a daily basis.

Another thing I found in my journey from Receptionist to Manager is well-trained staff are confident staff. Often Receptionists are faced with a situation that they are unable to handle. Confident staff can usually defuse a situation before it starts getting out of hand.

I will be sharing some of my experiences and stories when dealing with patients throughout the years in future blogs.

Telephone Call From a 4 year old


When I was a receptionist I answered the forever ringing telephone early one Monday morning.

I gave the surgery name and followed this with my own name. I was not expecting the reply I received. A young voice came over the telephone asking me “who is that”.

I gave her my name again and straight away asked for her name. She gave me her first name – Holly.  I was very friendly towards her and told her my full name and asked her full name thankfully she gave me this – I was speaking to Holly Smith.

I took a note of the name and tried to keep her attention. I asked the girl where her mummy was and she replied that her mummy was “asleep” upstairs. I asked her if there was anyone else in the house besides her mummy and herself  – she confirmed that her uncle Dave has just left and it was just her and her mummy in the house. Holly seemed to be happy and not upset.

I asked what her mummy was called – she replied “mummy”.  I asked her if her mummy had another name – she replied “yes” “Mummy Smith”.

I asked the girl how old she was and she told me she was 4 years of age. I asked her if she went to school and she told me that she always went after lunch.

I asked Holly where she lived – and she said that she lived “down the road, the house with the blue gate”.

I realised at this point I was not going to get any more information out of Holly – I asked her to go and check her mummy again and to keep hold of the telephone as I wanted to talk to her some more.

She came back on the phone and confirmed that her mummy would not wake up. She then quickly said to be “I have to go now” and put the phone down.

While having the telephone conversation I put Holly’s name into the computer, she was a patient at our surgery and the records showed that she was in fact 4 years of age. It also confirmed that her mum was also a patient at the surgery. We had an address – but there was no telephone number listed.

I went into the duty doctor and informed him of the conversation, he said that he would go around to the house immediately – I also informed the Health Visitor. She said that she would go with the doctor. The Health Vistor knew the family and felt she could be support if needed.

While the Doctor and the Health Visitor were on their way I phoned directory enquiries to see if they had a number listed for that address – they did.

I phoned the number and Holly picked up the phone – I told her who I was and she remembered me. I asked if her mummy was still asleep and she replied “no mummy is taking a bath now”.  I asked her to tell her mummy that I was on the phone – but she replied with “I have to go now”– and put the phone down.

The Doctor and Health Visitor arrived shortly after and found one very embarrassed mum in her dressing gown. They explained what had happened and pleased that all was ok. Mrs Smith said that she would make sure that it didn’t happen again.

Questions:

1.        As a Receptionist would you have done anything differently?

2.       What do you think was important in this incident?

3.       What could be done to make a similar situation easier to deal with?

Answers:

1.        As a Receptionist I felt that I did as much as I could have done in this situation. I  got the information that was needed and from that we were able to confirm that the patient (or her daughter) was not in any danger.

2.        The most important thing is to get a name, a contact telephone number and an address – and if you can a date of birth. Try putting this into the computer as you get the information at the same time to see if they match up.

Try to get as much information as you can.

Speed on such an incident is vital.

Once you have sufficient information ensure that you pass this onto the correct person to deal with (ie duty Doctor / Nurse / Ambulance Control)

If Holly had continued talking to me I would not have disconnected the call – I would have passed this on to another Receptionist to deal with whilst I continued to chat to Holly – it would be better her talking to me rather than being perhaps on her own with a poorly mum to deal with.

If there had been a health care professional in the reception area at the time I would have got them to have taken over the call – but in this instance that was not possible – so I had to deal with the call.

3.        The most important thing from this was to get a telephone number for the family. I had the girl’s name, but no address and if I had not been able to obtain a telephone number we would have been powerless on what to do next – and would have probably had to report it to the police.

The lesson from this was I made notices to put up in the surgery and left leaflets on the reception desk asking patient to update us with their telephone numbers. It was quite scary just how many patients we did not have telephone numbers for – and quite a few that in fact had changes their telephone numbers. 

Also when patient phoned in to make appointments or with any queries I got in the habit of checking if we had a telehpone number for them and updated their records if we did not.

This incident was before we had phones that had caller id– but of course not all numbers come up – some are withheld – so do not rely on this alone.

Have you ever had such an incident in your surgery?

 

 

 

Receptionist Training: The Correct Image


THE CORRECT IMAGE

  • It is important to look good
  • To have confidence and build on it
  • To have a professional attitude and how to develop it.
  • Abiding by your companies policies and guidelines.
  • To work as part of a team.

THE RECEPTION AREA

  • First impressions at the desk and on the telephone are vital.
  • Organisational tips – paperwork, files and desks – are they tidy?
  • How does the reception area look from the other side – how do you think the patient/customer sees it? Does it look tidy.
  • Ensure that ALL patient information is not on view. (confidentiality)
  • Always appear to be calm (even if you feel you are not!!!!)
  • Make your reception area safe make sure there are no handbags left lying around for someone to trip over – look out for other items left lying around (boxes cables etc).
  • Are there toys left on the reception/waiting area floor, magazines for someone to slip on.
  • A good Receptionist will always take pride in her reception area.

COMMUNICATION AND PEOPLE SKILLS

  • Always use clear communication.
  • Learn the art of asking the right questions.
  • What you say and how you say it.
  •  Words that work.
  • How to avoid being misunderstood.
  • Ask the patient/customer if they are happy with what you have just told them.
  • The “smile” factor.
  • Having a positive approach

DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS AND SITUATIONS

  • Know how to handle a difficult situation.
  • Feel confident in what/who you are dealing with.
  • Identify the problem. Get to the right solution.
  • Anticipating problems before they happen.
  • Defusing a situation
  • Remember everyone is different
  • Lack of listening can prove to be damaging.
  • Use eye contact whenever possible.
  • Be alert! at ALL times
  • Know your practice policy if someone wants to make a complaint. Make sure you know where the complaints forms are kept.

KNOW HOW TO AVOID THOSE TRAPS

  • How to deal with the busiest times of day ie first thing / lunchtime
  • Rota staff to accommodate your busiest times.
  • Ensure you have backup when staff are on holidays or sick.
  • Ensure that there is always someone allocated to answering the telephone
  • Ensure that there is always someone on the front desk
  • Ensure that ALL staff has appropriate training
  • Ensure that you have policies/procedure if your computer system should go down.

and REMEMBER:

A good Service is only whatever the patient/customer thinks it is.

Receptionist Training: Young Patients and Confidentiality


  • HOW CAN WE HELP YOUNG PATIENTS

 It is important that a young patient feels confident to be able to
speak to a Health Care Professional in confidence.

 

Young patients also have the right to confidentiality! Often it is difficult when a young patient around the age of 15 years comes into the surgery alone. They often don’t want their parents to know that they have been to the Surgery. Often it is of a personal nature. So what happens when the Surgery need to get in touch with the young patient:

Do not phone the patient on their home phone (if possible)

This often leads to questions by parents as to why the surgery is phoning – especially if the patient has not told their parents they have been.

Do NOT leave a message on the home answer phone

Again, this will lead to questions by parents.

Use Mobile Telephones where possible.

It might be a policy of your Practice not to use mobile telephone numbers. But in the case of a young patient it is advisable to use a mobile number if you have one. This is one
safe way of being able to speak direct to the patient – in confidence.

When is a good time to phone?

Ask the Young patient when would be the best time to phone. You don’t want to call when they might be in school or perhaps at home.

If a young patient comes in alone for an appointment

If the patient is very young please check with you Doctor/Supervisor/Practice Manager that they can been seen on their own. Your Practice should have guidelines on young patients.

At the time of the appointment check if they have a mobile telephone number – this will allow you direct access to the patient if you should need to contact them.

If Tests are being carried out

Make an appointment for them to receive the results. Normally we ask
patients to telephone for results – giving a young patient results can often lead to confusion and the correct procedures not taken. An appointment can give the Doctor/Nurse a chance to make sure they understand. It is amazing how many young patient do not understand medical terminology – I have had young patients believe that a “positive” pregnancy test means that they are NOT pregnant. Positive meaning it is good that they are not pregnant.  Do not assume that they understand – always clarify that they understand – explain exactly what the results mean. If as a Receptionist you are giving out a pregnancy result to a young patient and the test is “positive” follow-up by saying:

“Your pregnancy test is positive – that means you are pregnant – would you like me to make an appointment for you to see the Doctor”?    or

“Your pregnancy test is negative – this means that you are not pregnant”

When a Young Patient wants to book an appointment.

There are several things take into consideration when a young patient comes into the surgery to book an appointment:

  •  The young patient does not want their parents knowing that they are going to see the doctor.
  • Young patients are often nervous about seeing the Doctor.
  •  It might have taken a lot of guts for them to come in to book the appointment – maybe it might be of a sensitive nature – something that has taken them time to come in about. So don’t scare them off before they have a chance to see the Doctor/Nurse.
  •  Always try to fit them in when it is convenient with them – if they don’t want their parents knowing it won’t help giving them a tea time appointment – parents might ask questions to where they have been.
  •  Offer an appointment straight from school – or perhaps in their lunch break. Ask the young patient when it would be best for them to come to the surgery.
  • If you feel that the young patient is nervous see if you can fit them in there and then (if you have a surgery going on) – often they will book an appointment and not attend – their nerves get the better of them and they do not come back.
  •  If it is a male young patient try to book them in with a male doctor and a female doctor with a female patient. This will help if the appointment is of a sensitive nature.
  •  If the young patient comes to the desk with a friend – you can always mention that the young patient is welcome to bring their friend in with them to see the Doctor. They sometimes need the support from a friend.

And most important – Young patient have the right to confidentiality – if they are old enough to come on their own then they should have the respect of confidentiality like any other patient. Sometimes Parents get to know that the young patient has been to the see the Doctor and will phone the surgery to ask what they have been in for – you do not have any right to give out any information. So be very careful. If young patients wanted their parents to know they were seeing the Doctor they would have told them.

Make sure you have the correct training in a situation where a parent calls the Surgery and asks why their child has been seen. It will happen.

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.

Taking A Telephone Message


When taking a message ALWAYS have a pen and paper/notebook ready. You don’t know how long the message is going to be, don’t presume you will remember it. (have a look at blog: Chinese Whispers http://t.co/7oge2fxK )

You will probably need to take down a telephone number and a contact name and possibly a message.

If you are taking a message that you need to pass to another person you must remember:

ALWAYS USE A PROPER NOTE PAD OR MESSAGE BOOK

  • Do not use a “sticky pad” – they are too small and often get stuck to another piece of correspondence – causing the message getting lost or not getting to the correct person.

DATE THE MESSAGE WHEN IT WAS TAKEN

  • Often a message is not read on the day it was taken.

TIME THE MESSAGE WAS TAKEN

  • This is also  very important. A time can quite often be significant and give a wider meaning to the message to the person who is receiving the message especially if the message if read some time after it was taken. 

 WHO THE MESSAGE IS FOR

  • Quite often the message might be for a specific person or the whole team.  You may need to put: or the attention of Alison Smith – Reception Team Leader Or For the attention of The Reception Team.

WHO THE MESSAGE IS FROM

  • Always take a name and contact number from the caller. Never presume that the person the message is for will have the contacts number.

SIGN THE MESSAGE

  • It is important to let the person know who has left the message. If they have a question regarding the message they know whom to contact if they have a query regarding the message.

 The six steps above are not only helpful, they are courteous and in a court of law very important.

and please Remember! A message you take could be used in a court hearing and used in evidence. The evidence would include the date the message was taken, the time it was taken and who took the message.