Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Knowing your doctor’s office policies can save you a great deal of time and hardship. If your doctor does not have a brochure listing her policies, call and speak with the office manager to find out the answers to the following questions.
-What are the busiest times of the day for your doctor?
-When is he/she most likely to run behind schedule?
-How far in advance should you plan to schedule a ‘routine appointment?’
-How long does is usually take to be seen for an acute illness (ex. A cold)?
-What is the policy on calling in refills for chronic (long term) medications, such as for blood pressure or diabetes medicine?
-How far in advance should you call?
-What if you are overdue for an appointment?
-How much medication can be called in at once (30 days, 60 days, 90 days) and how many refills can you get?
-Does the doctor offer early morning, evening, or weekend hours?
-If you have a mild illness (such as a bladder infection or a cold) will the doctor consider calling in the treatment without an actual visit?
-What is the ‘grace period’ for being late for an appointment?
-What is the cancellation policy? (Is a fee charged for forgetting to cancel in a certain period of time?)
-Does the doctor have phone appointments?
-What time of the day does the doctor usually return phone messages? (Don’t sit around all morning waiting for the doctor to return your call if his policy is to do so during the lunch hour or in the evening.)
-What types of issues can be handled by phone and do not require a face-to-face visit? (ex. Paperwork for job)
-After you are treated, how long should it be before you should expect the treatment to work? If it does not work, should you automatically make another appointment or can you call and leave a message for the nurse/doctor?
-When is your co-pay due?
-What is the policy on obtaining a copy of your lab results/x-ray results? (ex. Can you leave a self-addressed stamped envelope, can you simply request a copy on the next visit,etc.)
-Is there a brochure on office policies?
-If there is an emergency, which hospitals should you use?
In addition to th above, you should look carefully on the walls of the waiting room and examining room for policies (ex. No children allowed, co-payment due at the time service is rendered). Knowing what and what not to expect can help alleviate a lot of anxiety at a time when you are the most vulnerable.