Hey, it's National Patient Access Personnel Week! Yes, it's officially true that there's an awareness week for everything in this country, and this week is the one in which we're supposed to recognize those who serve as our windows into the healthcare world: people working in appointment scheduling, call centers, registration, admissions, patient finance, guest relations, and related tasks.
OK, so maybe your experience wasn't always so happy. The idea here is to thank those great front desk assistants at our doctors' offices who answer our calls politely, get prescriptions filled efficiently, and go the extra mile to make sure our healthcare access experience is pleasant. If you know one of these "good ones," now's the time to thank them -- and hopefully inspire others in this line of work to start thinking from the patient's POV.
On a more serious note, there is of course the very real problem of healthcare access disparities and how high costs prevent many people from access to adequate care... but that's a story for another week.
For those who do have coverage and see a doctor regularly, the office experience is improving gradually, from the expanding use of Electronic Health Records to a recent ruling that gave us patients mandated direct patient access to our lab test results, thanks to Health and Human Services (HHS). Just last month, the agency changed a long-standing rule on lab result access, allowing us to now get our hands on those lab results directly from the people performing the tests, rather than having to go through a doctor's office as has been the case to date. So, here's to that tangible boost in patient access!
Now, in honor of Patient Access Personnel Week, I'm giving a shout-out to the great ladies in my own endo's office whom I see at every visit, who answer my calls and get so much of my healthcare puzzle put together in ways that my endo does not.
Letter to My New Endo's Office Managers
You are the nice ladies who greet me at sign-in, even when it's really early in the morning and I'm still half-asleep. I'm sure you'd offer me coffee, if that wasn't a no-no because of my fasting and no-glucose stipulation in advance of my blood tests. There's always a smile and warm hello, as I sign my name on the clipboard and take note of the arrival time. I appreciate the diligence in making sure my information is up-to-date at every visit, but it can be a little frustrating to have to fill out that entire set of sheets even if it's only been a month since my last visit and nothing has changed.
I understand that this southside Indy office is a relatively new location for Dr. Health Bug, one that he only visits a couple of days a week when he's not seeing patients at his main office at the hospital in Indianapolis proper. But it's never a challenge to get what I need, no matter what day of the week it may be.
Before I go sit to wait, you take my insulin pump and CGM to upload into your system and print out the results for Dr. Bug to have in his hand when he comes into my room. This was an interesting development, too, when you didn't have the correct cables at that first visit in January to download my Dexcom G4 CGM (you only had the connection cables for the Seven Plus), and at that time you didn't have the Tandem t:slim software in the office either. But it was wonderful how you were open to my showing you the online access to Tandem's t:connect, and within that same week you were able to snag the latest Dexcom software and USB connector so we could access all of my data right there in the office.
I've only been to your office a few times since starting to see Dr. Bug in January, but I've had a great experience so far. My wait was only a few minutes two of the three times, and the third when he was running behind, you clearly explained the delay and kept us up to date, even offering us some water. That's far better customer service than I've seen at other doctor offices, usually with higher-volumes of patients coming through. And in those places, I've encountered "attitudes" from those at the front desk.
At check out, it's a little funny that the credit card machine hasn't worked since I started visiting at the beginning of the year. But I don't mind carrying an extra check in my wallet and writing that out to you.
When I've called with concerns about scheduling or even refilling prescriptions, I've been met with pleasant voices and understanding and have never felt like you're burdened by my calls. And there's always a sense of urgency in your voice, that makes me feel Dr. Bug will hear about my concerns as soon as possible -- not like other doctor's offices, where it's seemed like a whole 48 hours could go by before my issue gets any attention.
I'm also assuming that you are keeping tabs on the doc's email, which is something I really appreciate because it's not been the norm at all for the Endos of My Past. It's very reassuring that I can touch base with Dr. Bug at any point outside of office hours, to let him know that I've uploaded my insulin pump data and to ask for any quick thoughts on blood sugar trends and needed D-management changes. Recently, I was nervous about some lab work that might have indicated a scary diabetes complication was finally hitting me. I emailed my concerns late in the week, and it was incredibly surprising and reassuring to see an email response from Dr. Bug on Saturday morning. With a couple of quick lines, he reassured me that "All is OK" and saved me from being stressed out for the entire weekend. That's invaluable, and I so appreciate the email access -- something I know is a touchy topic because of slacking reimbursement rates for "non face-to-face" time, and something not all doctors agree should be done. Still, the fact that it can be done, and Dr. Bug uses this in those non-emergency situations and follows up by mail and phone, is an incredibly valuable access option for those who want it.
For me very recently, it was a critical point of access at an extremely high-stress moment -- one that I so much appreciate.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I say THANK YOU for all that you do, above and beyond the basics.
MWH (a type 1 for 30 years who's had my share of endos and doctor office visits through the years)
OK, DOC, now it's your turn: What would you want to let your favorite patient access personnel know? Give them a shout-out, and make sure to use the hashtag #NAHAMAccessWeek2014!