The Unexpected Patient

June 14, 2010

It’s hard enough to see the people who are scheduled to be seen. What do you do with the unexpected patient?

It’s hard enough to see the people who are scheduled to be seen. What do you do with the unexpected patient? And I don’t mean the truly sick, emergency patient. I mean the one who walks in a day early or a day late for their appointment swearing to high heavens that their appointment is today.

We schedule our patients’ appointments well in advance, so I certainly understand if they forget exactly when it is. But we call to confirm their appointment two business days before their scheduled visit. And yet, perhaps once or twice a month, a patient will show up, insisting that they have an appointment, even though our schedule shows that it was two hours ago, or the day before.

Aside from our schedule, we have no record of what the patient was told, and for new patients, they have no documentation of when their visit was supposed to be. It’s a little better for follow-up patients because they are given a card with the date and time written down. And fairly consistently, when they say, “Oh yeah, well I have my card right here” it is follow by “…and oh, yeah, you were right, it is tomorrow”. This gives me the confidence that it is not my staff’s fault.

But there they are, standing at the front desk, saying please please can I see them. Or at least the polite ones say that, the others just make a fuss and insist they are right and that I must see them. Even worse are the ones who ask if I’ll be able to see them “on time.”

We try to accommodate those we can, especially the follow up patients because they are fairly brief, but I can’t squeeze a new patient into a full schedule, unless by luck of the draw, somebody cancelled that day. It makes for unhappy patients, and once again, I am open to suggestions, but I don’t see a solution when “he said – she said” results in a surprise patient.