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Friday, March 2, 2012

Why all the paperwork?

Every doctor's visit involves so many things-- many of which are behind the scenes.  All patients want is good, timely care, but there are other things that are important too.  Much of what our front office and billing staff do is never really noticed by patients.  Yes, they check you in and collect your co pay.  They schedule your follow up appointment.  They make small talk.

You might not realize that between checking in patients they have many other tasks to keep them busy.  One such task is to look ahead to the following week's schedule to check for incomplete information in charts to flag them for the upcoming visit.

We have always required that patients have a current patient information form filled out at least once a year.  (Please complete one sooner if your information has changed.)  This is actually required to comply with many insurance company contracts.  In my opinion it is irresponsible of us to provide care without correct up to date contact information.  We typically ask all new patients to fill out a form and for a new form with each well visit after 1 year of age.  Those who have not had a well visit in the previous 12 months are at the highest risk for having an out of date form due to the complexity of checking patients in and checking their chart for up to date paperwork.  Please keep up with your child's well checks!

While the information doesn't change often and it seems you shouldn't need to fill out another form, it is very important that everyone has an updated form yearly.  It is not uncommon for us to try to reach a patient's family and we have the wrong information.  In recent years many families have dropped their land line,  yet the main contact number we have on file is that number.  This means you miss your appointment reminder call.  We have a hard time calling with lab results.  We cannot reach you in case of an important question or result.  We give referral practices the wrong contact information and they cannot call to schedule your appointment.

I know when you are checking in your baby's crying, your toddler's trying to eat the books, and your oldest kids are fighting, but it is still important that we have your updated patient information.  Too often parents omit parts of the form and we are left with incomplete forms, or they simply never turn them back into the front staff.

This has become such an issue that we are now enforcing that you will not be checked in unless we have a form that has been completely filled in within the past 12 months.  So even if you arrive on time, if it takes you 15 minutes to fill out your form, you will be checked in 15 minutes late.  This might mean you are put behind the person who checks in with a completed form for the next appointment.

This was not an easy decision for us to make because we know that it will cause some backlog in our waiting room, which will make the providers wait to be able to see patients.  That means patients will wait longer to be seen.  The way we have done it for years (allowing parents to finish the forms after the nurse brings the patient to the room) simply isn't working and we need to do something different.

This new policy does not mean you must wait to be checked in.  All you need to do is fill out a form in advance.  They are available on our website.  If you cannot print it at home, come in a few minutes before your appointment and fill yours out if it is due.  We send this link to all patients prior to their well visit if they are registered on our website. (Note: each child must be registered. We do not send Johnny an email if Jenny is the one registered.)  You can easily register by clicking on "Create An Account" on our Home page.  Tips to create an account and add family members (additional children) are available here.

We hope that once everyone becomes accustomed to this procedure the forms will be filled out prior to appointment times so check in can proceed on time and your child will be seen in a timely fashion. Thank you for your patience and understanding and your help completing forms before your visit.