It’s 4:30 and your staff informs you that an emergency visit has been added to your schedule. Sound familiar? When it turns out to be a retinal tear, you’re happy you saw the patient. When your patient complains of mild blurred vision in one eye since picking up their glasses last week, somebody didn’t ask the right questions.
Striking the right balance between being responsive to your patients’ needs versus disturbing the patient flow you have scheduled so carefully can be challenging. Here are some tips toward more effective patient triage:
- Review triage with those who answer your phones regularly and create a written protocol for them to refer to.
- Designate a preferred slot in your schedule for emergency visits.
- When in doubt, the telephone staff should take a message and leave the decision of when to see the patient up to the technicians who are working more closely with the doctor.
- If you know you’ve got a particularly busy day ahead, instruct those answering the phones that you will personally triage any emergency requests – it’s often worth a minute of your time between regularly scheduled patients on busy days.