Most doctors are swamped with patients and have to make choices when appointing patients to their schedule. So how do you get the only appointment left on next Tuesday, your day off?
Asking for an appointment: Make or break the relationship.
Depending upon how large the practice is, there is probably one person designated to make appointments and is most likely a woman or young adult. This position is one of the lowest paid in the practice, so keep that in mind when talking to them and boost their ego at every chance.
· Don’t tell them you have to get in this week because you are going on a cruise or exotic trip next week and just have to be seen now. This will not induce sympathy with a person financially incapable of affording such luxury. Just say you’re going out of town.
· Don’t tell them it ‘has to be next Tuesday between 2 and 4’. Ask nicely if ‘that time’ is available, but do not insist on it. If you consistently follow the suggestions laid out here, chances are the appointment coordinator will move patients around to accommodate your schedule just because you are the favorite. But it is not a good idea to demand a specific time unless they ask you first. In case you don’t know, the appointment coordinator is taught to run the schedule, and to not let the patients do it for them.
· Keep in mind it is the appointment coordinator’s job to FILL the schedule for the doctor. Most doctors want to see a full schedule for tomorrow when they leave for the day. “Emergency time” is seldom available, unless the practice has a consistent need for it. I know of no doctor that likes to sit around with no patients and therefore no income. Even the most caring of doctors still has their income in mind. After all, they have a staff and bills to pay.
· Which brings up the next point: do not ask the appointment coordinator for a discount or a payment plan. Trust me, they will not have the authority to grant one. In most practices, only the doctor can grant lower fees. Sometimes the office manager can suggest payment plans. However, keep in mind, you will never be the doctor’s favorite patient if you consistently ask for lower fees or special treatment in the payment department. If you truly need help with financing, do it with the greatest tact.
· And please, please if you remember nothing else I’ve said here, remember that your insurance is a contract between you and your insurance company. Your doctor files your insurance for you as a courtesy. It is not a requirement. It is not their duty. It is not their fault if your insurance does not pay, (most times anyway.) You may be responsible for any balances left by your insurance. Just because your insurance does not pay all of your doctor’s charges, does not mean your doctor charges too much. If there is a question about your insurance, offer to call the insurance company yourself. It is so time consuming for the office personnel to do this. Sometimes they will need to, but you’ll gain points with them if you do it yourself.
· And please know your insurance information. If you are going to a medical doctor, have your medical card with you for them to copy. If you are going to a dental office, know the difference between your medical and dental insurance and have the proper card available. Most dental policies are separate from the medical policy. Some vision policies are separate, also. If you work for a large corporation or a large group, such as State or Federal employees, the office will probably know who is your insurance carrier, but have your card available for them for ID numbers, etc., from the card. If you do not know who handles your insurance, contact your Human Resources department for the information before your appointment. Or, if your doctor is referring you to a specialist, you can obtain your insurance information from your regular doctor to take to the specialist’s office. They will love you for this.
· Which brings up the next point: reward any special favors. Bring goodies with you for the doctor and staff. I’ve had patients bring the doctor a bottle of wine and a box of cookies for the staff. Most people are watching their weight, so fresh fruit is nice, too. One patient brought fresh strawberries, another fresh peaches in season. Bake them a cake. Bring a potted plant. Trust me, they’ll love you for it because it so rarely happens. If you do not have a chance to bring them anything, a written card to the doctor and staff with specific comments about how wonderful everyone was, is a great favorite, too. Praise the staff to the doctor if they do a good job and they’ll be your friends forever.
· Do not wear strong perfume. I’m constantly amazed how often patients do this. Remember you are at a doctor’s office. People there are sick, hurting, or have some kind of malady. A vast majority of people gets headache from smelling strong perfume. You are never going to be a favorite patient nor are you going to get the most compassionate service if all the staff can think about is getting your smelly self out of their office as soon as humanly possible. Do you want to be a rush job? What if your doctor is allergic to your perfume? Mine is! And so are members of our staff. It will be noted in your chart because a nurse or assistant that can tolerate your smelly self will be assigned to you while those you make sick will avoid you. The doctor may deliberately anger you just to get rid of you. You will not be treated well and may never know why because it is hard to tell a patient that they stink! Enough said.
· Do not cry. Yeah you’re hurting, or deathly sick, but please try not to cry. Doctors and staff will feel helpless and sad for you, but they’ll also be relieved when you leave. Raw emotion is hard for any human to deal with and doctors and staff are no different.
· Do not whine, or complain about another doctor you’ve already seen. It could be the doctor’s best friend. Or a staff member’s friend. If you’ve been ‘doctor shopping’ and have seen several doctors in a short period of time, don’t tell the new doctor that you’ve seen ‘5 different doctors and can’t find a good one’. You’ll be pegged as a ‘problem patient’ in a heartbeat and won’t be taken as seriously. Be professional when talking about other doctors, not complaining.
· Keep religion and politics out of your conversations in the doctor’s office. Period. Unless you know the affiliation of your doctor and/or staff matches yours from something they’ve said. I’ve seen a Baptist patient bring our Catholic doctor literature that conflicted with his beliefs. It created an uncomfortable situation. And don’t think just because you and everyone you know is fed up with your country’s leaders, your doctor is also. He may be in a different financial situation than you are and has differing opinions.