Healthcare Business DEMYSTIFIED

de mys ti fy - to make less mysterious, clarify

How do I get my doctor's office staff to help me?

Often a patient will want to know how to get their doctor's staff to help them or what exactly can their doctor's office staff do for them.  The office staff is an extension of the physician and it is advisable to use them to their maximum.  They can be a wealth of information about services in the community and programs that may be available to you.  They may be able to provide you with a phone number to one of those resources as many of these organizations will drop off information packets at the doctor's office.  They may have special coupons for over the counter medications or samples of soap or disinfectant sprays.

Get to know the office staff and learn what areas each are responsible for.  The receptionist may be responsible to making appointments and doing referrals to other offices.  They may also collect your co-payment and put in the charges at the end of your visit.  They will often make an appointment for your next visit.  They may be faxing your medical records to a specialist or receiving lab reports that need to be forwarded to the physician. The insurance person will be in charge of all insurance claims.  They will follow up with the insurance company if a claim remains unpaid.  They often will also be the one to send you a statement at the end of the month.  If you are having problems with your insurance claim, this is the person you will need to be in close contact with.  They are also the person you will need to talk to if you are having problems paying your bill or need a payment plan.  The nurse in the medical office often has direct access to the physician and can ask a quick question on your behalf.  They can offer advice about over the counter medications or assist with other issues and problems.  Allow them to help you or offer you advice. 

It is important that you approach the staff in a respectful manner.  Treat them well and they will do the same for you!  Patients who are demanding and hateful with the office staff make the experience unpleasant for everyone involved.  The staff went into healthcare for one reason - to help people.  They are all giving people who will go out of their way to assist you if you treat them nicely. 

When you need a refill of medication call several days before you run out.  This gives the staff time to get with the physician and get the prescription called into your pharmacy.  The physician is seeing patients most of the day each day so there is not a lot of time to stop and refill last minute prescription needs.  Asking for a refill early lowers your stress and their stress too!  Same goes for student physical forms and other school forms.  Request that they be filled out well in advance of their due date.  Last minute forms can be hard to complete when there are patients to be seen.  Use this same approach with any items you may need from your doctor's office - give plenty of time for the request to be completed.

If you are having problems paying your bill, be honest with the business office.  Don't avoid their phone calls or ignore their letters.  Give them a call and let them know you have lost your job.  Most of them are reasonable people who will work with you to get your bills paid as long as you are making an effort.  If you agree to pay a certain amount every month, do it.  Show that you are serious about meeting your obligations. 

Call the nurse when your pharmacy doesn't have your prescription.  (see the Topic "What is E-Prescribe?" to learn more).  They will be able to investigate this situation and follow up with the pharmacy on your behalf.  When you are having a medical concern, the nurse can help you decide if you need an appointment to be seen.  Be ready to tell him or her your symptoms, how long you have been sick, and what your temperature is.  If you are calling for your child, make sure you have this information.  It is also helpful to know what over the counter remedies you have tried and if they helped or not.

Be an active participant in your medical care and partner with your doctor's staff to get the care you want and deserve.  All of these staff members have been drawn to healthcare because they like helping people.  Allow them to help you get the most out of your medical care.