Do you know a "Dr. Receptionist" who jeopardizes patient care?

Do you know a "Dr. Receptionist" who jeopardizes patient care?

The following is a letter sent in by a veterinarian. Let us know if you can relate—or think the receptionist deserves a break.
Mar 25, 2011
By staff

I happen to work with a "Dr. Receptionist" at my veterinary practice. I’m torn because she's an asset to the team for so many reasons. She’s very friendly, extremely detail-oriented, hard-working, persuasive, and undoubtedly wants the best for our practice. Unfortunately, she's helpful to the point of dispensing medical advice—advice she’s not qualified to give.

I noticed the problem when our practice started keeping track of new callers. The receptionist records why the people called, how they found us, and most importantly if they schedule an appointment. After reviewing the new-caller records, it’s plain to see that the number of appointments "Dr. Receptionist" makes—compared with the number of incoming calls she answers—is lower than anybody else's.

Why is this? If she really wants what's best for our practice and the pet, shouldn't she be scheduling the most appointments given her persuasiveness and likable personality?

That’s just it, she says too much. She discusses all the options with the prospective caller—possible diagnostics, exam fees, and whether the pet could wait for treatment considering the caller recently had to pay for major car repairs and has three kids in college and can't really afford an expensive veterinary visit right now.

[Insert sound of tires screeching to a halt.]

Uh, what?

I understand veterinary care is expensive and I’m not encouraging my clients to waste their money. However, a veterinarian is the best person to advise clients how to spend their money on pet care. These financial decisions shouldn’t be made over the phone, especially without a veterinarian involved.

Sometimes I just want to send our "Dr. Receptionist" to veterinary school for four years. She needs to learn that just because the caller's pet most likely has a common problem, the pet cannot be diagnosed until it's been checked out by a veterinarian.

I've repeatedly told "Dr. Receptionist" that she's overstepping her bounds—as have the other doctors. But she's the kind of person who’s never wrong. She wastes our time explaining why she's right or why she did things a particular way. Sometimes her behavior does improve for a while, but then her urge to help kicks in and she’s back to dispensing medical advice.

Every time "Dr. Receptionist" acts like she’s the best source of information, we are missing opportunities to properly help clients and their pets.