Speaking of growing pains…the changes we made to help mitigate COVID have added some extra challenges, as well.
Some patients think telehealth is the bee's knees, and some are insistent on seeing us in person.
Some patients remember to wear their masks, and they call to let us know to unlock the doors for them, while some are still struggling to understand why we still have these protocols in place.
As we seem to be shifting as a society to a new equilibrium with this virus, we're looking at making a few pivots in our approach.
We're going to start using our waiting room on a limited basis again. The doors are still locked, but we'll try to have you do your waiting inside, rather than limiting to one person at a time. Everyone will still need to be masked (there are still patients with COPD and immunosuppression who need us to protect them from infections). We're still going to have telehealth available for those who are acutely ill and think that a video chat will be most convenient for them. But, we're going to transition back to allowing some folks with illnesses back into the office in-person. This means we may still have you wait outside before your appointment if there's someone ill currently in the building (or if you're the acutely ill one and someone medically fragile is currently in the building). Again, the doors are still locked. You will still need to call us, or knock, and wait for the little "beep" letting you know we released the lock. And we do still need you to wear a mask. But we're hoping to eliminate the process of sending folks back to their cars and then trying to figure out how to alert them that they can come in when the coast is clear. We're asking that you utilize our telehealth option when it would make sense to do so, but we're here if you need to see us in person, as well. We'll revisit this policy as things progress; there's always a possibility that the pandemic could take a turn, or that we simply find out that the workflow through the office doesn't run as smoothly as we'd hoped, so bear with us as we try modifying our approach.
We've had a lot of growing pains in the computer switchover.
The doc is still wading out from under backlogs and figuring out how to manage her workflow.
Tosha is still trying to figure out how outsourcing the billing has changed the financial workflows.
Some patients like having reminders sent to them, and some find the robocalls annoying.
Some folks are filling out all their history in the new system at home prior to check in and feeling confident that we have everything in their chart correctly, and some are still confused as to why we're updating this and don't still have everything from the old system in their charts.
Some patients LOVE having their full lab results at their fingertips through the portal, and some really miss having a letter mailed to them.
If you're missing something we promised you, give us a friendly nudge and we'll see if it's lost in a cyber-crack, or if the doc simply lost track of it in all the confusion. Sending a note through the portal is probably the best way to do that, and that’s what it’s for, so don’t be afraid to follow up so that we can clarify where things stand. If you have trouble operating the portal, give us a call and we'll try to walk you through it.
Tosha has nearly wrapped up the billing from the old software, but if you're seeing two types of bills coming from our office that seem to have different totals, don't panic. We've just got the pre-October-2021 and the post-October-2021 bills separated to avoid posting payments to the wrong system. And if you think you've spied a billing error, let her know about that, too--the new billing process has resulted in some mistakes she has had to follow up on, and she wants to make sure they're getting everything right.
So far, we've found the appointment reminders helpful. If you're finding the number of texts and voicemails distracting, you can customize your notifications in the portal (or ask us to help you do that).
Lab results will be coming through the portal. We understand that isn't convenient for everyone, and we will make an effort to get a letter sent if your computer skills are non-existent; however, drafting a letter takes a lot longer, so those results might have some delay.
We will continue to ask you to make sure your information in the chart is correct. Please don't assume we can easily find anything from your previous chart. We have that information in a database, but it's not easily accessible, will require a database query to retrieve, and in the case of medication lists, for example, may not be accurate, since there's over seventeen years of data there. If filling out things on the computer is daunting for you, let us know, bring your medication list, and the doc can sit down and update your chart with you at your visit.
There are lots of reasons why we updated the computer system, many of which are due to insurance and government regulation. We know part of our charm is being just a bit old-fashioned and quaint, and some of our patients have been pretty vocal about not liking it when we make any changes, but this system really has added some functionality that we needed. We appreciate you sticking with us for the transition.
We're so excited! Our new EHR vendor has reached out to SureScripts, who reached out to the corporate folks at Kroger pharmacy, and we are now able to receive electronic refill requests from Kroger again. (This has been one of the biggest bumps in the road for us, so we're thrilled to be on the way to running smoothly.) We hope this makes the patient experience more seamless.
If you call us today, please leave a voicemail. Tosha is out, and the doc won't be able to answer the phones on demand while seeing patients. You'll definitely get a call back (or your prescription will be sent to the pharmacy, or whatever it is you asked for) if you leave a message; it just might be end of day, as the schedule is pretty packed. The patient portal (see link above) might be more efficient, since we can then send you a note back between patients. We appreciate your patience.
You may notice our scheduling seeming a bit spotty over the next few weeks. Dr. A. has a kid in college, and one in high school, so the spring vacation dates don't line up. In addition, there are spring concerts and drivers' tests and Scout outings and the much-too-late-in-the-year cookie season looming. So, there are a lot of days where she's out to hang out with the kids or run errands or take a breather. Have patience with us; we'll work you in as we're able.
Also, if you were waiting for refills this weekend that seemed to never come, we can explain! The doc's phone gave up the ghost Friday and required a factory reset followed by the search for a new phone. This disrupted controlled-substance prescribing, which really made the entire refill list seem to be Mount Everest. She's winnowing away at it over the last day or so, and the weekend backlog should be clearing.
Here's hoping everyone gets to take a few moments to soak up some sunshine and fresh air.