This prescription may cause…


I am going to go out on a limb here and say that a great many of you have a doctor whom you like, but your doctor has a staff you would like to strangle.  I know a little bit about this subject. I’ve managed a cardiology practice for well over 20 years.  Speaking only from personal experience, I am going to give a few tips to ingratiate yourself to the staff, make you their “favorite” patient, and in turn have the doctor put you to the top of his or her triage list of phone calls he or she doesn’t want to make.

Upon visiting a doctor for the first time, or ANY time, have with you something we in the business like to call an “insurance card”.  It would be equally helpful if you actually KNEW who your carrier is and—I don’t want to get crazy here—but what your copay is. Also, don’t put your hand out with 3 cards because you get a new one each year and never get rid of the old one… and then expect the already miffed staff to “figure it out”.  Some form of Identification would be welcome as well. I am sure this sounds insurmountable, but trust me, it isn’t.

Questions NO one who works with doctors wants to hear:

“Is the doctor here yet?”

“Is he running on time?”

“How long will I be?

“I know I don’t have an appointment, but I was in the neighborhood. Think I can be seen?”

In a crowded doctor’s office, I find it best to befriend the front desk people.  An example of a reasonable question would be, “how many patients are ahead of me?”  And NEVER even try that last one–EVER.  Though my office has a plethora of amazing magazines, none greater than 3 months old, presume yours does not.  Bring something to occupy your time that is SILENT.  There is the possibility, however incredibly LIKELY, that you will be there for a while.  😉

If possible, so as to not be a block away when you think of another question, write them down and bring them with you.  NOT a hundred of them on index cards, but the pertinent and important ones.  I dare say a little common sense will be required here.  Also, it is probably best to NOT start a sentence with “I read on line….”  Even if you did, the doctors I know aren’t very fond of the self treating patient who knows better.

When calling your now befriended office staff, keep up the good work.  Leave a clear and concise message, a phone number where you can actually be reached, and… this is key… if you do not hear back from your beloved physician in a reasonable amount of time, it is perfectly fine to call back. (Do NOT wait 3 weeks and call back angry and ready to rip heads off. I am afraid that tactic is counterproductive.) There is hardly the need to be nasty about it to the staff.  A simple, I have not heard back yet, preferably with an upbeat tone and minus the demonizing of the staff.  It’s not as if the doctor tried to call and had his hands lopped off by their underpaid staff. (That is just a guess.)

Notice the signs.  Not the signs from the heavens above, but the actual, physical signs that say things like, no cell phones, no eating, if you have any demographic changes, please tell the receptionist, copay expected at time of visit, please have identification.  Crazy, insane things like that.   Trust me, there ARE signs.  And much like those from heaven above, they are mostly ignored.

When dealing with the front office staff, remember that they are the first line of defense. They whisper their opinions to the physician that you are about to see. It would be in your best interest to befriend them from the get-go.  As things stand now, even as computerized as we have become, you will encounter humans.  The human element in any situation is going to make some determining factors.  Again, since I speak only from PERSONAL experience, I can say with very little doubt that all will go much more smoothly when there is a calm and friendly relationship with the STAFF.  It trickles UP to the physician and then across to the patient.

Office protocols differ from office to office, and that lag time in a cold lonely room can be exasperating.  I personally have wandered out in my gown to see if the lights were on or had everyone just left me there.  Still there is a more or LESS obnoxious way to handle that scenario.  Mostly, I realize that I have not been forgotten, I have been waylaid while the doctor is off seeing someone else or on a call with a physician… or something completely irrelevant to your care completely.  (Not an excuse, but an explanation—also not how I run my office.) If need be, peek out and NICELY make sure they haven’t forgotten you as they chatter amongst themselves doing absolutely nothing. Barking like a rabid dog will again, not make a good impression.  Remember, you aren’t wearing clothes.

In any case, my philosophy is go there expecting the worst and hoping for the best in both your time spent, and even your prognosis. I suppose my point is, you are likely to get the grand and royal treatment if you start off on the right foot and not bite the hand that can leave you in a freezing room, naked for a really long time, and drop you to the bottom of the call back list somewhere after your doctor’s malpractice insurance agent.  🙂


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