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Sunday, 12 January 2014

How to Be An Exemplory Patient

As a diabetic I spend a lot of time in doctors offices. Working in one as well means that I already know how to get the most out of my appointments. People may not realise this, but getting the most out of your appointments starts in the waiting room...with me, the receptionist.

The 10 basic laws to being a good patient (at a specialist). Good patients get cookies. Follow these if you want a cookie:

1. Show up on time. Why do I even need to mention this? Especially if its your first appointment at a new clinic. Then you show up  early. If you're late I get cranky and I may just ask you to come back another day, irregardless of if you rode a llama or jet-skied across the pacific ocean to get here. And if you are going to be late, please have the decency to call and explain why as soon as you know you will be late.
Generally if the patient is on time, the doctor is too...makes everyone happy. If the patient is late the doctor is late...makes everyone sad...and then people yell at me for something I have no control over, making me the saddest person in the waiting room.

2. Bring your paperwork. Referrals laying on your desk at home aren't going to get you that Medicare rebate that you probably want back to help pay next week's rent. If you do forget it, ask your GP to fax a copy over or ask the receptionist if it is alright to email it or post it later that day.
It's also a good idea to try and bring any relevant results. If you know that you have not been given a copy we will happily track them down on our end if you can tell us the pathology, X-ray or otherwise company that you have used. It also means that we have it already there and waiting when you arrive, and often the doctor has also then had enough time to look over your results and have a bit of an idea what you're coming in for.

3. Referrals expire every 12 months. Don't argue with me about it.  I know its not fair. I know that you have a condition that requires life-long management. So does the doctor. Unfortunately we're not Medicare and we didn't make that silly rule. I can let you in on a little secret though: you can ask your GP for an 'indefinite' referral which will last, you guessed it, indefinitely. 

4. Tell the receptionist when you book what the issue is regarding, and if you have any secondary contributing factors that might warrant special attention. Like pregnancy. Pregnancy is a magical golden ticket to the highly coveted #1 spot on my waiting list.
 This not only helps with scheduling times, but it also reassures you that you have indeed been given a referral to the right type of specialist. GPs sometimes make mistakes and an endocrinologist can't really help with the removal of a superfluous 3rd nipple. Don't be embarrassed - we've heard it all and we aren't going to laugh at you or blab it around. We also don't want an in-depth description of your entire medical history. One word or a short phrase is fine, i.e: Type 1 Diabetes, testosterone deficiency, PCOS, etc.
In the end we just want to be able to schedule in the most efficient way possible and give you the full amount of time you will need to get your problem sorted. 

5. Following on from #4, if you are seeing a doctor in regards to needing a medical certificate/report for work or driving, taking part in a lawsuit or doing work cover, again tell the receptionist before you book in. Anything noteworthy at all, tell the receptionist. The last thing I want to do is hit you up with an extra fee that you don't know about for writing an insurance report because I wasn't told that that's what you needed.
Often times as well medical certificates will require you to do further testing or to follow special provisions before the doctor will sign off on it, and we can't advise you that if we don't know that's what you want.
Similarly if you have any specific needs - i.e. an interpreter, let the surgery know. Medical centers get them for free and its much more beneficial for everyone if we can communicate clearly.

6. If you do need a medical certificate to drive, etc. DON'T leave it until the last minute and expect the receptionist to move heaven and earth to get you an appointment in the 2 day time-allowance you have asked us to fit you into. Basically, that's not gonna happen. We'll see you in a month's time when we have an available spot, because the pregnant lady with Willy Wonka's magical golden ticket has priority to the chocolate covered doctors room (NB - Doctors room aren't actually covered in chocolate).
The same is 100% true for scripts and medication - Ringing up your doctors surgery and telling them that you ran out of Carbimazole yesterday is not something we want to hear and feel pressured about. If you haven't been keeping a close enough eye on your medication please try and get an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to give you a script as your specialist usually sends them a letter detailing all your current medications and any changes made after each appointment. It may also not be possible for your specialist to give you a script 'pronto', as specialists may only work a few days a week at the clinic you attend.
If forgetting to refill scripts/medications is an issue for you, I would suggesting asking your chemist about your eligibility for a Webster Pack.

7. The minute you know you can't make an appointment, please call and advise the surgery. Simply changing your mind and not turning up with no indication to the surgery is very rude and disrespectful as well. Wait times for specialists can be quite lengthy and the sooner we know the sooner we can offer it to someone who really wants the appointment.
 Deciding to go to work instead of your appointment is not a valid excuse. Specialist appointments are normally booked months in advance, so if you couldn't find the time to ask your work for time off that's not the surgery's problem. You are also depriving the doctor of their income when they have already gone to work, looked up your results, come up with an action plan and much more for you. How would you feel if you went to work and your boss decided to turn around and tell you you weren't getting paid for an hour of work because no customers came in during that time? I'm guessing you wouldn't be happy either.
There are obviously some very excusable circumstances, like having a run-in with dementors, that we will forgive non-attendance for; but if at all possible please try to call when you find a quiet moment between hurling curses and conjuring patronuses to call and tell us you can no longer attend.

8. Treat staff the way you want to be treated. Generally I'm an all smiles receptionist and if a patient treats me well, I will go out of my way to try to help them in any way possible. You want the receptionist on your side. We can do amazing things, like getting you that 7.40am appointment that is normally booked out 6 months in advance.

9. Look after your blood forms, scripts and whatever other miscellaneous volumes you have had piled upon you during your appointment. There's only so many times your house can burn down or your pet canary can develop a taste for inky-green script paper. Some practices may charge a replacement fee on these if you become a repeat offender.
If you know you tend to lose things you can arrange with your pharmacy that you will drop scripts off directly to them on your way home from the doctors and they will happily take care of it for you. Its also worth enquiring if blood test forms can be kept in your patient chart at your doctors until you need them, at which point you can come and collect it.
Many surgery's will have policies against posting scripts, due to those crazy people who will unfortunately try to use other people's scripts. If it is a specialised script the doctor may also have to go through the PBS to get an authority number for your script, and this can be very difficult to reissue so they obviously don't want it going to post-office limbo.

10. Relax and ask questions. Make sure you know where you're going and how much it will cost. Feel free to ask - no question is stupid if you aren't sure of what you should be doing. If you leave a message on a surgery answering machine remember to include your name and contact number - its surprising the amount of people who think I know their voice off by heart from a message recording. Unfortunately I don't remember, and its very awkward when it becomes clear to the patient that I don't think about the sound of their voice as much as they obviously think about mine.

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