“You’re late! You owe me for my time.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/08/02/earlyshow/main20086787.shtml

Before I had my own billing company I was in practice management. The article on CBS immediately took me back to office staff training and the daily pain of providers and timeliness. If you Google “billing doctors for running late” there are numerous posts and articles. Some doctors are paying even if they aren’t billed by the patient.

I believe the staff should keep the patient informed if the doctor or other provider is running late. The office should give the patient the option to either wait or reschedule the appointment. When a patient shows up and are told that their provider is running late, most will wait. However, wouldn’t it be nice if the office had the time to call patients before the appointment and let them know there is a delay and give them an option to reschedule? Only in a perfect world, right?

I know I’m opening a can of worms here because I can see this from both sides, the office side and also from the patient’s side. Yes, my time (as a patient) is valuable and why should it be less so than my doctors?

We know there are many reasons a provider can run late. Double booking is a major cause. Situations where “Mrs. Jones never shows up so lets put in Mr. Brown.” Well, then they both show up and need to be seen. There goes the schedule. I remember years ago hoping for no shows so the doctor could catch up.

Providers can also run late when patients are scheduled for their allotted time of 15 to 20 minutes and take much longer. When scheduling a visit, hopefully the patient gives all the reasons they want to be seen. For example, Mrs. Jones says she has a cough, but also while she’s there, “can the doctor just take a look at her leg that has been hurting and is swollen”? This just turned into a much longer visit. For something not urgent, the patient can be asked to schedule another visit, but, because of the nature of this problem, especially a possible DVT, she can’t be brought back the next day. This can happen daily in any office. Hopefully the staff has let the waiting patients know an “emergency” has come up and apologized for running late.

Surgeons can be called away to the ER. Specifically, for offices when the provider is on call, a patient should be given a note in the registration packet that informs them that there is a chance that since this provider takes ER call; occasionally the patient will need to be rescheduled or asked to wait. Information beforehand is the best policy.

If patients are kept informed it makes for a much less stressful environment for everyone. It would be a lot nicer for the patient who is sitting in a room, reading an old magazine, possibly in a gown, and wondering where the provider is, to know that they are going to be seen as soon as possible. It’s not good to have a patient stick their head out the door and ask, “Where is the doctor?” A staff member can just take a few minutes to let a patient know that they have not been forgotten, heaven forbid, and they are sorry that the provider is running late. An apology is always good. It can diffuse a bad situation. Apologies don’t hurt anyone and if accepted can make a world of difference.

Let the patient know that they’re cared about. If possible, call ahead of time to let them know the provider is running late. Give the arriving patient a chance to reschedule if the visit isn’t urgent. Keeping the patient informed shows them respect. Setting up an office policy should this scenario happen can go a long way to keep you from getting a bill from an angry patient.

And apologize.

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About Dorothy Trottier

For over 13 years I have owned a billing service providing reimbursement and information management designed to maximize the performance of physician based practices. I have over 20 years of insurance billing and medical office administrative experience.
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One Response to “You’re late! You owe me for my time.”

  1. I believe in the perfect world you describe. For me, it comes down to common courtesy on all parts, and that makes good business sense.

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