physician patient relationshipArguably, the most important aspect of a medical practice is the physician–patient relationship. It is a combination of mutual respect and trust. Physicians expect their patient’s compliance with orders for tests and medications, as well as respect for their time.
Patients expect their doctor to respect their time, offer proper treatment that results in a positive outcome, and to have a restored or improved quality of life after treatment.
Frequently left out of the patient-physician relationship is the influence of the doctor’s staff whose activities have a significant role in fostering the physician-patient relationship. Following are some tips that help the staff make the relationship between patients and doctor a strong one.

Scheduling

On any given day, four types of patients present to the physician’s office. They are:

  1. Patients with an acute problem – needs a quick diagnosis and perhaps fast treatment;
  2. Patients scheduled for treatment – procedure, infusion, and injection;
  3. Patients who are chronically ill; and
  4. Patients scheduled for a wellness visit

While you want to approach each patient in an individual way, meet with the team to figure ahead of time the best way to deal with each group of patient. Talk with staff about what the general expectations are of each type of patient and how the team can help meet those expectations.

Short Daily Clinic-Plan Meeting

Hold a meeting every day to check the schedule and plan for possible obstacles to keeping the schedule on track as well as opportunities to shorten a patient’s visit.

Front Desk Efficiency

Your front office staff can help keep the schedule flowing more smoothly. They can:

  • Make brief notes on the reason for the visit;
  • Ask what the patient needs from the doctor; and
  • Insure that all paperwork, insurance verification and all other demographic information arrives before the office visit.

Triage Protocol

Every staff member knows their duties when beginning a patient exam as far as taking vital signs and documenting findings such as BP, temperature etc. Avoid tasks that the provider duplicates and make sure there is good documentation and communication between the triage team and the physician about the patient’s status.

Patients Hate Waiting

The area identified by patients as the thing they hate most is long waiting times. Your practice needs to watch wait times. If the physician is behind, share that information with the patient.
At the end of the day, investigate the cause of the delay. How can you and your team improve to prevent future delays?

Prepare Your Staff for Demanding Patients

Some patient encounters are more challenging than others can. After you and your staff have identified the kinds of encounters, help them to manage patient expectations.
Following are two examples:
“While I am here can the doctor also…?” Scope creep for the visit can wreck a schedule in a heartbeat. Have scripts such as: “The doctor has a very tight schedule today and can only see you for the reason you made an appointment. When you check out, we can get you an appointment for that new problem.”
Or;
If a woman accompanies her mother on the office visit and asks the doctor to check her for a sore throat, make sure she knows that “this is another visit and will need an added copay” – said politely this usually stops the “tag along” and they will make their own appointment.

The Bottom Line

The Physician – Patient relationship is really a misnomer as it is the physician–office staff–patient relationships that counts in the end. While the physician’s way with a patient is paramount, much that the staff does impacts the visit to make it better.
Physician Billing Services Case Study

Last Updated on June 2, 2014