How much info does a doctor's receptionist want?

I just made appointments with two different doctors.

The first doctor’s receptionist asked searching questions about what the appointment was for. I answered her questions as best I could, given that I’m not about to diagnose myself. She seemed unsatisfied with the information.

To the second receptionist (of a dermatologist), I announced that I needed a follow-up appointment regarding some suspicious moles. I’m pretty sure I heard her snerk into the phone, as if she could have had a perfectly nice day without hearing that information.

Is there any rule about how much information to give the receptionist? None at all? Detailed medical history complete with photographs?

I work in a primary care setting. About a one sentence explanation with major symptoms and duration as well as any other information that you think is important.

As a former receptionist I just wanted an idea what amount of time I should give and if I needed to set anything up.
Physical, Follow-up on test results, rash, pain in foot, need a urine test, need a throat swab anything like that is fine. I DID not need to know every single detail of a patient’s problem, after all I am not a nurse.

The other thought is some people call a doctor when they should really be going to the hopital. Chest pain, excessive bleeding etc

Hope that helps a little.

The phone operators have a standard set of questions they ask you, in order of how they appear in the computer. Just wait for him/her to ask the reason for your visit. If it’s a slew of things for your PCP, just book an annual physical if it’s time per your insurance, as they will allot extra time. If it’s one thing, it’s fairly simple to condense it- for a dermatologist, growth, lesion, rash, wound, skin check (suspicious mole is too close to a diagnosis, ask for a skin check instead), will work.

“I’d like to make an appointment to see Doctor X please” is all I need to say. The most searching follow-up question I’ve had is, is it something the nurse could deal with?

They don’t need to know anything about my symtoms etc, at my local surgery.

Ditto but I suspect things are somewhat different in the USA where (so far as I can make out) you don’t have one single port of call who will refer you on as required and still manage your overall health. I think it’s more a case of making one’s own appointments to see specialists.

I dunno if it helps, but I’ve been in and out of various offices over the years. “Hi, I’m lizardling and I’m calling about making an appointment with X.”

Subsequent questions are on the order of scheduling, ID/SSN for pulling up pt. folders, insurance.

Nothing personal, and if I got a question about what for, other than a very general description such as “blood test,” my reaction would be “Sorry, that’s between me and the doctor.”

The thing is, while zelie zerton is right, I really resent this invasion of my privacy. I don’t want to tell the front-desk girl what’s wrong with me. And I say this being a front-desk girl myself. I don’t mean it to be insulting, it just seems decidedly nosy.

Back when I was a medical secretary and made appointments, I was required to ask if the patient was having any symptoms. Being that I worked for a gastroenterologist, it was a great big festival of too much information, and I felt really bad asking these people such a personal question. But, sometimes it made a difference in how soon you were seen. If it was something really unpleasant, but not something that required an ER visit, I might be able to ask the doctor to squeeze you in earlier.

My favorite was when I asked a lady, “are you having any symptoms?” she replied, very matter of factly, “yes, my bowel movements are coming out of my vagina.” :eek: What do you say to that?

But, if a patient didn’t want to tell me, I wouldn’t push the issue.

Well, it shouldn’t be too much of an invasion if you don’t let it. We have occasional patients that don’t want to share why they’re visiting and frankly that’s fine. Some medical assistants and secretaries do take it personally, but they’re the unreasonable ones.

At the most basic, what we’re trying to discern is if this will be a long or a short visit. Also, it certainly helps the provider provide better care if they have some idea of what’s up.

Ahh! TMI! TMI!

I think I’ll skip lunch…

I just thought of another reason.

As a receptionist/assistant I had some slots that I kept free for "immediate need and would, if necessary squeeze someone in if it was serious.

You don’t want to ask some patients if it’s serious, because to them everything is serious, so you try to poke around and make the determination.

I don’t work with human medicine, but I imagine there are many parallels. When I was just a lowly customer service rep at the veterinary hospital I work with, we were required to ask questions about the nature of the appointment.

We needed to know whether this was a new client visit, senior visit, annual exam, simple visit with a technician, 40 minute long sick/injured visit, or whether we needed to advise the owner to go to an emergency hospital or come down to us immediately without waiting for an open slot. Each case would require us to schedule it in the computer (AVIMark) with appointment notes stating what the reason for the visit was. If there was no appointment note the Doctors would not be happy.

They like to know what their day looks like, whether they need to research something before an animal comes in, and what animals with appointments that day might need referrals, printouts of relevant disease/treatment information, etc.

So it is the receptionist job to glean whatever relevant information they can from the client. Obviously we don’t need a lot of details, but the basics are essential in preparing the Doctor and technicians for that client. I generally try to give as much info as possible to my own doctor, because I’ve seen too often clients that hold something relevant back because they didn’t think it was related.

It’s clearly going to be different with human medicine, but in general they’re just trying to map out their appointment schedule in the most efficient manner possible.

Maybe, but I think it’s different office to office. At my clinic, I will ask you fairly specific questions about what type of symptoms you’re having in order to book you the most effective and helpful appointment, because we have a fairly specific set of appointment types and times, an OB-GYN who only sees very specific things, and a range of NPs and non-clinician providers that have a range of services they provide. Some nurses see men and some don’t. Some nurses deal with IUDs and some don’t. Some phlebotomists can also conduct your HIV test counsel and some can’t. Some blood tests will need to be scheduled ASAP early in the morning, and some will need to happen Thursday afternoons only. HIV tests are scheduled under an anonymous account, other lab work isn’t. Most types of blood work we do have very specific pre-draw instructions like fasting for certain periods or no breast stimulation that you may not have gotten or may have forgotten, and that I will be sure to remind you about when you book so that you don’t show up for your chem panel draw after breakfast and then get angry at me for not having told you to fast. Sorry if it bothers you, but I will need to know if you’re scheduling for a chem panel or an HIV test. I can certainly schedule you without that information, but I’m not going to feel guilty if you show up, can’t get the services you need, and then you’re angry at the staff for not being able to help you at your appointed time.

In general, the nosiness factor of my questions will correlate directly with when you’re wanting to be seen. For example, if I know you’re experiencing symptoms that sound like a UTI or herpes, I will book you immediately, that day, almost regardless of what the schedule looks like because of the time sensitivity of HSV tests and the potential for a UTI to become very serious, very quickly. If you refuse to tell me anything, even a vague description, you’ll get booked in three weeks when the next available appointment comes open and you may or may not get anything useful out of that appointment. We are an extremely busy, high-volume clinic and if I, as a receptionist at your medical provider’s office, ask you “nosy” questions, it’s not because I’m personally curious about what’s happening in your down-below parts, it’s because I want to help you the best way I can, and to do that I need to know what we’re seeing you for. I probably have three other lines on hold and I’d like to help you as best as I can, as quickly as I can. Please just give me the information I need to do so.

In the same way that people call demanding to talk to a nurse and then ask a question that is well within the range of a receptionist or clinic assistant to answer, people call demanding short-notice, last minute appointments all the time for things that really aren’t urgent, so… sorry, if you refuse to tell me why you need an emergency appointment, you aren’t getting one. Just like if you ask to talk to a nurse I’ll field your question first, and 99/100 it’s something I can answer.

On the other hand, sometimes people call and offer waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayy too much information right off the bat. If I need to know what type of symptoms you’re experiencing, I’ll ask, and I just need need generalities.
I’d generally say let the receptionist ask you for what information she needs, and if you feel put off, just ask why they’re asking. You can then choose to answer or not answer, and sometimes knowing why they need to know allows you both to get to the root of the pertinent facts as efficiently and helpfully (for both of you) as possible.

Maybe it was a mis-heard snerk? I doubt a mention of a mole at a dermatologist’s office is snerk-worthy. Working in a specialist’s field of medicine means that you eventually become immune to just about anything in that scope. There is just about nothing that would make me snerk at this point.

Uh, one more comment then I’ll stop spamming the thread. No one answering the phone at a medical provider’s office should ever snerk–we’re there to help you with whatever health care concerns you have, and I would never, ever want someone to call and hang up feeling like they’ve been disrespected or mocked for calling, no matter how minor the concern. If it worries you, we want to do whatever we can to help. If she did snerk at the mention of a mole… at a dermatologist’s office then she needs to not be working at a dermatologist’s office.

I work in the mental health center at a college. Nobody’s mentioned mental health, right? Mostly I just ask name, phone, e-mail, major and grad year. Those last two are for stats and that’s what I tell first timers when I ask them. There are times when I’ll ask “Are you a danger to yourself or others?” “Are you suicidal?” “Do you think you want to go to the hospital for an evaluation?” That’s usually when clients seem dissatisfied with the time they have to wait for an appointment or they are hysterical crying or seem to be barely functioning. There are some repeat clients who think that their counselors can wave a magic wand and make them feel better after any perceived crisis and demand to be seen right away. A few times of that and I say “If I get you in, it better be because you need to go to the hospital. Do you?” That “Do you” is pretty a pretty good question if “No, I guess not” is the answer I want.

I get aggravated by the doctor-nurse dance every time.
If I tell a lot to the nurse, when I finally see the doctor he will say “So, what is it today, just a checkup?” No, Doc, there’s my __ and my __ and that __. “Oh, well we can’t do all that today, so we’ll just do a checkup and you can ask for another appointment.” Sorry Doc, if you don’t want to work on my agenda, we can skip your agenda too. And don’t bill me.

And if I ask for a checkup he will open with questions about all the other times I’ve been in. “So are you still taking an antibiotic? Any reactions? Do you need it renewed?” Doc, that was for a one-time prescription for a cut two years ago. Can we get that erased from the record? It’s time to let go of that.

How about this one? I’d made an appointment with what would have been a new doctor for something non-urgent – maybe just a checkup. I was working third shift at the time, and for some reason my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up about half an hour after I was supposed to have been at the afternoon appointment. I called right away, apologizing all over the place, saying that I worked the graveyard shift and had overslept, and asking if I could possibly reschedule. I got in return an enormous amount of 'tude. “Well, what time do you THINK you could MAKE IT IN this time?” – said with an unbelievable amount of snottiness. I said I’d have to check my schedule and never went back.

Yeah, I know I should have let the office manager or the doctor know, but frankly I couldn’t be arsed.

The nurses and receptionists at the clinic we go to now are awesome. So are the doctors. The one I usually see is a tiny little Filipino lady, barely five feet tall and cute as a button. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that sucks. It causes us a slight hitch in the schedule when people no-show, since we have to wait ten minutes after the appointment time to see if they really will show up, but… we tend to think of it as an unexpected break and chance to catch up :D.
Try this one on for size:
I once no-showed an appointment at my own clinic :smack: