Phoning a Patient at Home


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Does your Practice have guidelines on phoning patients at home? We all know of the obvious one and that’s not to leave a message of any kind on a landline because of confidentiality.

But when is it a good time to phone when you need to speak to a patient? Perhaps it’s relaying on a message from the Doctor or Nurse, or just to let them know there is a prescription to collect due to recent tests coming in.

I will give you an example on how consideration should be made when phoning a patient at home.

Someone close to me has for the past 6 years been trying for a baby without any success. The couple have been through many hospital and doctors visits, pregnancy results and alternative treatment to try help them achieve a pregnancy. They finally went through IVF earlier in the year with the daily injections, hormone changes and finally the heart-breaking news that it hadn’t worked. They set their sights on more IVF in 3 months’ time. An eternity to them both. But to all our surprise and delight a month after the failed IVF they fell pregnant naturally.

Fast follow to her being 6 months pregnant. She hadn’t had an easy time, morning sickness and fatigue hit with a vengeance, she also has an over active thyroid that needs monitoring throughout the pregnancy and she also found out that she was rhesus negative blood type and tests would have to be done when the baby was born to see if she needed an anti D injection but the delight of finally being pregnancy got them through all of these hiccups.

Her symptoms were getting worse and she was feeling poorly with no energy she seen the doctor and bloods were sent off to check for her iron levels.

So last Wednesday morning she was in bed. It was 7.55 and the telephone rang downstairs. They have elderly relatives and she immediately worried something was up. No on every phones at that time unless its urgent she thought.

She rushed out of bed, rang down the stairs and as she picked up the phone it stopped. She waited for a message but then her mobile started ringing upstairs – she panicked as someone was trying to get hold of her.

As she ran upstairs to get to the phone she tripped on the stairs and fell. In the panic she got up and answered the telephone to find it was her Doctors Receptionist telephoning to say that there was a prescription in reception for her to pick up for iron tablets.

As you can imagine she was upset as the fall. As the day went on she couldn’t feel much movement from the baby and this caused her a lot of distress, until she finally telephoned her midwife to asked her to come straight into the maternity hospital to check the baby and to have an anti D injection.

So, did the Receptionist really need to phone at 7.55 in the morning? I don’t think so. This telephoned caused a lot of unnecessary worry and inconvenience not to say how awful it could have been – but we wont do there! And not to mention how bad the Receptionist would have felt had she had known about the fall.

There should always be a guideline for people being telephoned at home unless it is urgent of course. 7.55 is far too early, what if it had been an elderly or disabled person doing the same thing? A fall could have been a disaster for them.

When training staff I always told them unless urgent no patient should be telephoned at home before 9.00 and if possible leave it until around 10.00.

More and more surgeries are opening up earlier than every before, so perhaps guidelines should be set to what time Receptionists can start to phone patients.

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