Quick Guide to What Your Doctor and His or Her Staff Should Be Doing To Help You Achieve Your Health Goals
A visit to most doctor’s offices is not a pleasant experience. You either don’t feel well or believe something is wrong. While there is no way to stop how you might feel before you come into the doctor’s office, it is completely within the doctor’s control to make your visit as pleasant and fulfilling (yes, I said fulfilling) as it can possibly be.
We have all been to one or many doctors in our lives. I know I have. Click here to read my article about what brought me to Functional Endocrinology of Ohio. While some of my doctors’ office experiences and treatments were not awful (not really a rousing endorsement), it took a lot of time, effort and frustration for me to find the right doctor and doctor’s office. What I discovered is that both (the doctor and his office staff) are important to your health. The right doctor and staff can make almost as much difference as the right diagnosis and treatment. Here is what you should expect from your doctor and his staff. I have listed these items in chronological order (from your first exposure to the office through your lifelong experience with the office).
A great website or social media presence. In this day and age, we all go to the internet to find information about everything. A good medical office needs to bring the information to where their patients will see it. [Click to Tweet] They are able to answer almost any (non-medical) question a potential patient may have on their website. The information should preferably be in video form as well as written for those people who learn best by video. The website is easy to navigate and should give the contact information for the office on almost every page. The website should include doctor biographies, directions and patient testimonials. Beware of reviews you read on-line. The best and most accurate reviews are from real patients. Look for the testimonials on the company’s website.
A great telephone staff. The staff that answer the phone will be your first live exposure to the practice. The staff is friendly, empathetic, professional, patient, and knowledgeable and be able to answer almost every question. You should not hold for longer than a couple of minutes. The staff member may have been already assisting another patient in the office when you called. When they return to the call, the staff member will listen to you and not be distracted or doing other things.
Scheduling and re-scheduling should be easy. You can call the office, have your questions answered, give the relevant information (name, address, etc.) and schedule an appointment at a time convenient to you within 5 minutes. We all know that the schedules of good doctors are often booked far in advance. That cannot be helped. However, an option should be offered to you to be put on a waiting list if there is a cancellation. You should be given all the information you need to prepare for your appointment during this phone call so that you do not need to call back. This information should include directions, parking instructions, instructions about any paperwork that needs to be completed, what to expect during your visit, and other office-specific information.
Informative confirmation calls. You should always receive a confirmation call before your visit per whatever policy the office has set. Some office calls 2 days in advance, some 1 day, and some even on the weekends. The person who confirms your appointment should be able to answer all (non-doctor) related questions and reschedule your appointment if needed.
A prompt, friendly and informative greeting. You should be greeted immediately upon arrival into the office by the front desk staff. They should look you in the eye, smile and if it is not your first visit, greet you by name. The staff should instruct you where to sign in, where sit, and let you know about how long the wait will be, and instruct you on what the first part of your visit will entail. For example, if staff will take your vitals before you see the doctor, the front desk staff should tell you this. If there is paperwork to complete, the staff should give you the proper instructions and be ready to answer any questions. One thing to remember about paperwork is that the doctor has instructed the staff about how he or she wants the paperwork completed. So, if the staff seems overly critical about paperwork completion, don’t judge them too harshly. Sometimes patients do not realize how important thoroughly completed paperwork is to their overall healthcare treatment.
Qualified nursing staff. You should be completely comfortable with any services provided by the staff. The staff should tell you of what they are doing each step of the way and you should feel comfortable that they know what they are doing. If you don’t, it is important that you tell your doctor.
A doctor who is prepared. Your doctor should be prepared in advance of your visit. We have all been to doctors who, despite having seen you before, open the chart for the first time as they are walking into the room and then clearly do not know who you are, or why you are there to see them. This should not happen. It should be clear to you that your doctor has reviewed your chart before your visit and is ready to ask the right questions to get you on the road to good health. The doctor’s explanation is clear and easily understood and the doctor should answer every question you have until you understand.
A clearly explained treatment plan. Your treatment plan should be very clearly explained and outlined in writing, including all costs. You should know what to expect at each step of the way and the doctor and staff should be ready to answer any questions you might have about the treatment plan at any point. If your treatment plan changes for any reason, this should also be communicated to you timely.
Follow up. Finally, a good medical provider is your lifelong health partner. This means they will be ready to help you through any health issue you might have. You should expect follow-up calls, follow-up visits, and follow-up communications with the office at regular intervals.
So, how does your doctor and his/her staff measure up? I would love to hear about some really great experiences that you have had visiting your doctor. Were there things that they did or did not do that you really appreciated?