Dr Mark HassedMany office jam emergency patients in at the end of the day when everyone is tired and wants to go home. The usual excuse that receptionists give is that the patient “couldn't come any earlier”. This is especially frustrating when there were gaps earlier in the day.

Here is how to handle emergencies properly. Firstly, realise that true emergency patients are grateful to be seen same day. They rarely haggle. Secondly, take control. Pick the ideal time for you to see them. Here is what to say:

Receptionist: “Very sorry to hear you have a toothache. Let me see where I can squeeze you in.” [Emphasise the word “squeeze”. Pause for a few moments.] “You're in luck! We have an opening at 12.30.”

This will succeed most of the time but occasionally a patient will say: “I can't come then. I'd like an appointment at 5.00pm.”

Receptionist: “I'm very sorry but the doctor is completely booked out at that time.”

Being firm in this way will win over all but the most demanding, unreasonable patients.

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