Conversations are the best ways to overcome concerns

When I organized my medical practice, I tried to find individuals with great customer service skills and medical knowledge to work in internal medicine practice. We all do our best to meet the needs of our patients, but sometimes, even with the best of efforts, we fall short.

For example, a patient requested a large quantity of a medication as a refill early one morning. I saw the fax as I walked in the door, picked it up, signed it, and returned it to the pharmacy for the refill. It only took about five minutes to send it to the pharmacy.

When the pharmacy received the refill authorization, they did not have the quantity of the medication the patient requested. When the patient went to pick up the medication, they were given a 90-day supply, not the requested 180 days.

The pharmacy incorrectly told the patient we only ordered 90 tablets. Angry, the patient called the office and was abrasive — not giving my staff a chance to investigate the matter to see if it could be settled to her expectations. Unfortunately, the pharmacy never told the patient their supply of that medicine was short.

The angry patient left our receptionist in tears, and our office manager was flustered. It takes a great deal to fluster our office manager, given her background. I tried to call the patient, but she did not take the call.

Having a personal conversation is the preferred way to understand and overcome concerns, issues, or complaints. Email is too impersonal and rarely conveys the tone properly, and a handwritten letter is less personal than a face-to-face meeting.

The same applies to those unexpected releases of records forms you receive from patients requesting their records be sent to another internal medicine or family practice. You never want to learn your patient has left your practice without knowing why. How do you fix a problem and prevent it from happening in the future if you were never made aware of it in the first place?

I encourage my patients to contact me if they are unhappy with me, my staff, or the way I provide care so we can address their concerns. Better communication makes for better care – even if the original message is unpleasant.

Give us a chance to hear your point of view and address the issue. That is what relationships are all about.

Although this article is based on my patient experiences, I encourage everyone to have a conversation with their doctor to share their concerns.

Steven Reznick is an internal medicine physician and can be reached at Boca Raton Concierge Doctor.

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