Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is Your Office Safe for Patients?


I am amazed at how unsafe physicians’ offices can be for patients who are unsteady and using a wheelchair, walker, knee scooter, crutches or a cane.


It is difficult for them to enter the office, maneuver from the reception area to the exam rooms and get on or off an exam table.


Getting through a door, if you are in a wheelchair is practically impossible without an automatic door opener.  Often the button to activate the opener is difficult to reach or in a place where the door will hit the patient when it opens. 


The solutions are simple, comprised of common courtesy and compassion and will prevent an indefensible malpractice lawsuit.


If the main door to your office cannot safely open electronically, have a staff member greet the patient and open the door.


Leave space next to a regular chair in your reception area for a wheelchair.


Have some wide, large chairs with arms in your reception area for patients with a walker, crutches or a cane.  The patient can sit down or stand up balancing on the arms.  The crutches or cane can rest between the seat and the arm of the chair.  Otherwise they fall on the floor where the patient cannot reach them and other people cannot pass by without tripping.


If there is no space in front of your receptionist for a wheelchair or walker, have your receptionist come around to the patient and hand him or her or the caregiver the clipboard with the forms that need to be completed.  Better, having your nurse or medical assistant take the patient into an exam room and either fill in the form for the patient or ask the questions on the form and enter the information directly into the computer, can be an enormous timesaver.  This gets accurate information in the patient’s chart and bonds the patient and caregiver with your staff.


There should be space in your exam rooms for a wheelchair.


One of your staff should stay until the patient is safely on the exam table.  If your patient needs help undressing, your medical assistant should offer to do that and reassure the patient that he or she will aid the patient in getting dressed.


Having a member of your staff stay with these patients as they leave, facilitates making the next appointments easily and correctly.  It also gives the patients time to ask questions that may not have occurred to them when instructions or treatment plans were first discussed.  This obviates many phone calls to your office after the patient gets home.  It also allows the caregiver to get the car and bring it to the front door of the building.    


If your employee stays with your patient until he or she is safely in the car, it shows an understanding of the difficulty of the logistics.  Basically, it is polite.  Don’t you walk your able bodied guests to the door when they leave your home?


LESSON: Caring about your patients’ comfort and safety is as important as providing good medical care.  As well as protecting you from an indefensible malpractice lawsuit, patients are appreciative, more compliant and will refer others to you.