The front desk at a medical practice is your point of reference for being seen to by your physician. In addition, they also usually handle your appointments, medical records, prescriptions, as well as any other specific needs that you may have. As a result of the services they are supposed to provide, front desk staff should be professional, helpful and attentive at all times. If you’re not greeted by a member of staff soon after your arrival at your medical practice or informed whether your physician is going to be late, it is discourteous.
You should also be aware of discourtesy coming from medical personnel when they come to answer your questions, assist you with referrals or prescription changes, give you your test results or any other kind of service that you need. Poor behavior from staff is a sign that the practice’s administrators and/or human resource personnel are asleep at the wheel. If such behavior becomes a pattern over time, or you find yourself dreading calling the practice that you use, then it’s definitely time to speak to your physician or find somewhere else to look after your health.
A big indicator whether a physician is being influenced into peddling specific products by a drug company is if you can see pharmaceutical logos, on things such as pens and clipboards, post-it notes and writing pads, or on posters and other display items. This influence usually comes in the form of the staff being treated to lunch, new medication samples being left with the physician, or a pitch being made to them in order to promote the drug company’s latest drug or device.
Although physicians claim that such things do not affect their objectivity in any way, others argue that such interference can cloud it. In fact, physicians are increasingly restricting the access that drug company representatives have to them – less than half of doctors now meet regularly with drug company representatives, compared to a whopping 80% just 10 years ago. If you see signs of your physician accepting freebies from a drug company, then it’s time to think about finding an alternative medical practice.
In the United States, there’s the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which is a law that limits who can see your health records. Most medical practices are very responsible when it comes to adhering to it, but that doesn’t mean to say that breaches don’t happen. In fact, Some 5.6 million patient records were compromised last year.
The HIPAA release form that patients are given to sign in relation to their medical records is very clear in relation to how physicians can use their information. In fact, it contains rules such as prohibiting physicians from speaking about patients in public places, charts cannot be left in places such as examining rooms where other patients may read them, or leave computer screens positioned in such a way that they can be viewed by others.
In addition, patient documents must be shredded, no photos of patients can be posted to social media, nor can text messages can be sent discussing specific patients unless there’s end-to-end encryption in place. The first thing you should do if you don’t see these rules being followed is to bring it up with medical practice’s manager, and/or your physician. They should know the importance of protecting patients’ privacy, and thus should be receptive to cleaning up their act if you’ve seen shortcomings.
Whereas it was once unheard of for physicians to promote and sell products to their patients, the past few years have seen a marked growth in the number of doctors looking to supplement their incomes by selling products such as dietary supplements.
It’s far from unheard of to hear of patients who have been sold vitamins, botanicals, minerals and other dietary supplements touted to promote weight loss, enhance cognition or even improve libido. Such activities turn physicians into salespeople, and this can often lead to a disregard for evidence-based medicine, not to mention taking advantage of a patient’s vulnerabilities. If your physician tries this on with you, just get up and leave.
A physician’s office can give you a glimpse into the chronology of their education, helping you to determine whether they are board-certified, are medical staff of a university, attained sub-specialty training, or have received any awards or honors of their work.
A better way to check up on your physician is to visit the licensing board website pertaining to your state and look them up. In New York City, for example, you can look up a doctor’s education and practice information, history of malpractice, or professional misconduct and criminal convictions.