How do you get your receptionists to handle emergencies?
I have been working in Sidmouth for over 7 years and in that time there have been lots of changes. Changes in the ownership structure, dentists coming and going, many new nurses etc. But the way we handle emergency phone calls hasn't changed at all. No one has ever sat down and tried to standardise and simplify the actions taken by reception staff to make their life easier and to minimise disruption to the clinical staff.
So last week I decided to do just that. This is really another spin off from the Deep Work book (review here: http://www.drchrisharper.co.uk/blog/book-review-deep-work) so I have called this the "Deep Work Policy". The idea is fairly simple: the receptionist asks a few questions and based on the patients answer they can decide what category the emergency falls into. If it is severe then the patient is advised to come straight down. If it is moderate then reception are to book a slot for that day or the following day. If it is neither of those things then reception can use a slot if lots are available but will normally instead take down the patients details and advise the patient that a decision will be made and they will be contacted that day at lunchtime or at the end of the day.
This method means that all emergencies from one session can be considered as a whole therefore speeding up the process and allowing them to be prioritised accordingly. It should also massively reduce the number of interruptions that clinical staff receive from reception bringing in notes whilst they are trying to concentrate on something else and for the most part these are non-urgent matters. This has been a big problem recently in our practice.
I know some practices have more in depth flow charts for reception to follow with an ultimate aim that they can book appts for anybody no matter what the problem is or provide advice over the phone therefore avoiding the need for an appt. I didn't feel this would work for us for a number of reasons. We have 5 dentists each of which handling their emergencies quite differently and we have generally very full appt books.
This is just a first draft of this idea and I'm sure it will be revised slightly over time. I will keep you informed of the process but am happy to hear what others think and feel free to steal the idea if you think it is useful to you.
Dr Chris Harper