I pit "Fran" the receptionist at my doctors office

This is one of those pits where I actually took the pit-ee to task and I still feel compelled to do this.

We’ve been with our family doctor for almost ten years now, and we think he’s great. Can I see why even a family doctor can be sued? Hell yeah!

Today my wife showed up late for her scheduled doctors appointment, 30 minutes to be exact (I want to be fair).
Fran, the receptionist told my wife that she missed her appointment and that she’d have to leave.
My wife apologized and explained that she works at a bank, and even though she can schedule to leave early to see a doctor, she may not leave until her money till is settled properly, which can vary (still not Frans problem)
My wife admitted that she was at fault and conceeded that if that put her at the end of the line, she’d wait because she knows she was late.

Fran told her "not my problem, too bad, we can schedule you next month. NEXT MONTH!
Of course my wife left and came home all upset.

Now, this is the same place that will let you wait over two hours when thy’re backed up without apology.

Can I do better???

Fucking right I can!

This is the place that last year, while waiting to be seen for a scheduled appointment, my wife got up and complained of diziness and they had her go sit back down. My wife went back to her seat, then passed out unconscious on the floor, at which point an ambulance was called.
Believe it or not, they never refunded her copay even though they never saw her.

We still never bitched. Yes, shame on us. We love the doctor.

Today, Fran wouldn’t let me speak to anyone else on the phone and repeatedly hung up on me.

…So, I go over there and they have no idea who i am. I look calm and collected (which I was anything but!) and they’re talking about ME!

One chick actually said “did he call back yet?”
“Not yet”
“Well, when He does, I want to talk to him” Of course she was the first one to high tail it out of there without peeping a single fucking word.

Fran jumped up and threatened to call the COPS!! I said, FRAN (I’ve learned to collect names) FRAN, go ahead and call the COPS. I’m not allowed to come in here and make an appointment???

Fran is not what they call a sensitive person and was callous to the point that she was just a negative influence on all of us. They finally made Fran go take a break.

They still blackballed me on the appointment schedule. And I told them that I was having Psychiatric problems and stopped taking my medications and really needed to see the doctor sooner. (if Fran had stuck around I was planning on looking at her as I said “and I’m having crazy thoughts”)

They said maybe I should keep calling to see if an appointment opens up.

They said to call back to leave a message for the doctor. I said maybe that wasn’t in Frans best interest and made them take a message right then.
Now I don’t look for fights and I’m the one who usually gives up, but I refuse to do so until I look into this doctors eyes and demand an apology for how my wife has been treated EACH TIME I mentioned here. Then I guess I’ll be looking for a new doctor.

Now I’m not saying that they were obligated to see my wife (who they scheduled to see the wrong doctor in the first place) but each patient who walks in there deserves a certain level of respect and dignity until they show otherwise!

People in the medical field, especially those who deal directly with patients should get out of the fucking business if they have issues deailing with people.
next month my ass!

…I’ll leave an update on Monday if anyone wants to know.

(ymmv in the US but in Aust) Medical receptionists get absolutely no training. If you’re lucky you’re dealing with an EN or an RN that’s slumming it but more likely all you’re dealing with is a receptionist. Most good doctors won’t cut bad ones a lot of slack and I’m guessing the doc will be on your side in this case. My mum has had a receptionist fired in front of her when the receptionist was overly callous in hearing range of the doctor that ran the place.

If they were talking about you or your wife, and you were able to overhear it, you have a HIPAA violation. Go back and ask to see their office policy on protecting patient’s privacy. That might get you to the front of the line. If you can relay this to the actual doctor without stalking him, you might get to watch Fran leave the office with her personal belongings.

I don’t want to get Fran fired. I just expect to be treated the way I treat other people. That being said, It will be my first order of business when I see the doctor (if I can get an appointment, because after all…I have to go through Fran)

Fran should be forced to attend sensativity training or something. And no offense to anyone but these people act like they’re in the teamsters union or something.
I was thinking of going in on Monday at 11 when the doctor is scheduled to see patients and asking for the next available appointment (which allegedly is late next month all of the sudden).
I will proceed to have my mother call to make an appointment for herself (she has the same doctor and a different last name) and see what kind of appointment she can get. If there’s a big discrepancy I can use this as proof that they’re not allowing me to see my own doctor. If that’s the case, that’s seriously unethical.
Scratch that…while typing this I decided to see if they were open on Saturdays and called to schedule an appointment. I got a different person, who scheduled my wife for monday at 5:45 (THIS Monday) & me on the 17th of this month.

Suddenly two appointments (3 actually) opened up between yesterday and now.

The doctor him/herself should be told of this. Put the facts in writing, objectively. No rhetoric or histrionics, just facts. So that it doesn’t get intercepted by the receptionist, hand the letter to the doc on the next visit. The potential privacy act violation should be clearly pointed out.

On another issue, trying to bend over backward to be fair, if you’re going to be late, it’s a good idea to call ahead and tell them. Although if the office gets as backed up as you say, the late arrival doesn’t hurt anybody, they just take the next person only 15 minutes after his scheduled time instead of 30. If you were the first appt. in the a.m., or the result of your lateness meant the doctor were sitting around with nothing to do for a half hour that would be different.

If Fran is that callous a person, all the sensitivity training in the world probably won’t change her. She should work in some capacity where she doesn’t have to interact with patients.

Many have given you excellent advice in this thread. I want to emphasize a few of those points:

1- discussion of ANY patient information within earshot of other patients is a blatant HIPAA violation. These violations carry a $10,000 per occurence penalty I think(memory hazy on the $$ amount)

2- differences in the way you are treated as compared to everyone else, including one-month differences in scheduling appointments are very likely to cause a stire if brought to the attention of the doctor as well as his medical group and associated insurances. You’re not without recourse if you do choose to file a complaint with all of the above people.

3- MLS is right. Put the facts together in a written statement to be delivered by you to the doctor. Hand it to him in the exam room and ask him to read it. THen work on some sort of dialogue with him regarding the incidences of maltreatment by him or his staff.

Then of course, go the quickly to a new doctor! Don’t take this kind of shit, I wouldn’t.


P.S.- one other thing. Please don’t tell the staff you’re oof your meds and having psych. problems. That would only make police intervention easier if they did choose to call 911 to report the “deranged man, having psych problems”, who is in their office making a fuss.

Just so you know, there is no reason why doctor’s offices have to be like this. My family practice hired some sort of “doctor organization” firm a few years ago and revamped their practices.

Now, if you call in the morning, you can almost always have an appointment that day (if you’re not picky about which doctor), and certainly by the next day. If I want to see my particular doctor, I may need to wait a week, at the most. And that includes scheduling physicals, which at my last doctor’s office, you needed to do months in advance.

The nurse calls us almost on the dot of our appointment time, and while once or twice I’ve had to wait up to 30 minutes in the exam room, I know that’s because my doc will sit and listen to you and address your concerns, so I don’t mind it occasionally.

He has a HIPAA violation if they were discussing her personal information and NAMING him. Saying “he is calling again” or “if he calls again” hardly qualifies as a violation of HIPAA.

Depends on what they were saying - if they were referring to him obliquely, like “that annoying guy who’s been calling all day”, then there’s no HIPAA violation because no one else could possibly identify who that is. Even saying “Mr. Jones” might be fine because again, that’s difficult to identify, or “the jerk husband of that asthma patient from yesterday.”

No, I just know that they were discussing me to each other in the office when I walked in. Not my personal information as far as I know, but the phone “conversation”.

But when I did make her appointment, why is it any of their business what her ailment might be? They asked me and I had to tell them in order for them to even look for an opening. Should it matter?

I admit that talking about my medication was opportunistic (but true). They asked ME why it was so important for me to see the doctor before next september. I should not have to explain my problems with depression at their reception desk with THEM when there are other patients nearby.

Anyway, I think it is probably best that I put it into writing so I can acomplish my goal without getting all worked up.

In both cases, they were doing triage. Certain ailments get seen more rapidly, and certain workup types have to be booked for a larger time slot than others. (By the way, don’t actually lie about what’s wrong. I used to do scheduling, and people who lied about the urgency of their symptoms tended to get disbelieved thereafter.) If you were concerned about other people standing around, tell them that you don’t wish to lose your right to privacy under HIPAA and ask to be able to write it down, or to speak in a more private location, or something like that.

Not having had health insurance the majority of my adult life, I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m convinced I’m dying, so I’m kind of vague on something here, if someone would be so kind as to clear it up for me…

You mean it’s a not-unusual practice when trying to make a doctor’s appointment, to be told you have to wait up to a month?!


I mean…wow…I can’t think of any time I’ve ever gone to the doctor when seeing me a month later would have done any good. I kind of assumed the entire point of making a doctor’s appointment is because you need to see a doctor, well, like, right then.

A day or two, I can understand…but a couple weeks or a month? Wow.

It’s not unusual to wait a number of weeks for non-acute problems, especially for a specialist. If something’s been bothering me for a while and I finally decide to get it checked out, I have no problem waiting for however long it takes to get an appointment with the doctor I want at a convenient time, and I always tell that to the scheduler. Ditto for routine checkups, such as my bi-annual dental exam, which gets set up months in advance. But for some things, yes, you should be able to get somebody without undue delay.

My dentist is superb about this. They always schedule ample time for each patient; as a result one rarely waits even 5 minutes. However, if you’ve got an emergency – broken tooth or lost filling that is resulting in pain, for example, they’ll get you in somehow the same day, even if it means the doctor works late. On a few rare occasions, I’ve had to wait a little because he was fitting in someone with just such a problem and they try to call me and advise if they can. Very nice folks.

I’ve stopped dealing with a couple of doctors because of crappy scheduling practices and lack of communication. And I’ve generally let them know why.

As MLS said, it depends on the doctor and your problem. If you typically only go to a doctor when it’s urgent, then I’m not surprised you’ve never been told that the next (regular) appointment is in a month. If you need a plain checkup, it will be longer. If you’re dealing with a specialist, probably longer than a general type of physician.

I have to agree that receptionists aren’t trained to know when a person should be bumped up on the schedule or can wait. I have my own experience to tell: several years ago I started having some abdominal pain. A couple of days later I started having high fevers. I called my doctor’s office to let them know I think I need some immediate medical attention. I let the receptionist know my exact symptoms. The receptionist said, “well, the doctor can see you in about four days”. I said "waitaminute. I have ABDOMINAL PAIN and a HIGH FEVER. This is kind of serious. I need someone to tell my doctor these symptoms now. If he can’t see me, then I need approval to go to the ER. She said “OK, I will talk to his nurse and call you later”

About five minutes later, she calls back. “Yes, he can see you immediately. How soon can you get here?”

Well, my husband got me there pretty fast, I was admitted to the hospital, a bunch of STAT tests were run, turned out I had a burst appendix and peritonitis.

If i had not been someone who knew better (I am an RN, and I know these are serious symptoms), I may not be here writing this now. Receptionists at doctor’s offices who aren’t trained in some sort of triage are dangerous. Doctor’s offices who don’t have some sort of priority scheduling guidelines are dangerous.

Do doctor’s offices train receptionists at how to prioritize these things? Any MD’s out there that have some sort of way to know how what receptionists are up to when they’re scheduling things? Yeah, I’m a nurse, but I work at a hospital and only get people after the fact, so I don’t know how the innards of a doctor’s office works.

Sorry for the hijack.

I would think that with all the lawsuits flying every which way these days, that doctors wouldn’t overlook how the front of their offices are being ran.

To use the one case I already cited above: My wife was already at the office waiting when here symtoms became even worse.

At this point how can the receptionist tell someone with seizure disorder who’s having dizzy spells to go to the emergency room if they don’t want to wait?

That, of course is not what they did.

Instead, they told her to go sit back down (because they thought she was trying to “cut” the line)

Not long after, she was unconscious on the floor and being loaded into an ambulance. Today will be the day that my Doctor and I will discuss this and I’m interested in exactly how he understands the way in which that whole incident went down.

I certainly shouldn’t have let something like that slide. :smack:

I had a small problem getting an appointment at a dermatology office when I was having the chronic hives, so I know how ‘non-acute problems’ can tend to be the ones that doctors don’t schedule for that one appointment they have left during the week for emergencies.

It was really, really hard to get through to the scheduling person that this problem with hives was more than a minor inconvenience, especially considering that I’d been to the ER more than once already to get epinephrine shots in order to continue breathing and that my doctor thought it imperative that the dermatologist see me right away to figure out if some medicine could be used to treat them.

This was February. The earliest appointment they said I could get was in May. It took lots of phone calls from me and finally calls from my primary doctor to hammer out that this problem was not recurring hives, and that it couldn’t wait.

My primary doctor’s receptionist (former) was even worse. She lost her job after telling an elderly patient who called in to see the doctor due to tightness in her chest to ‘take a couple of aspirin and come in’ the next day. That patient died.

Rooves, I applaud you for not taking this situation lying down. This woman treated both you and your wife horribly and unprofessionally.

For those who would defend Fran, shame on you. Lack of training does not justify lack of sympathy.

If this is true, I’m willing to bet she got in a lot worse trouble than getting fired. Telling someone to “take a couple of aspirin” is legally considered medical advice, which is something a receptionist is not qualified to give.

I believe Qagdop the Mercotan is an M.D. I’m sure he’d have something insightful to add to this thread.


I talked to the doctor yesterday about all of this.

Out of principal, I made them refund my wifes copay for that time she was taken out in an ambulance.

To be honest, he didn’t even know who FRAN was. He apologized and set up for the office manager to contact me. He said that if he tried to run his own practice, he’d fail because he doesn’t like anything other than seeing patients.

Another tidbit I didn’t know was (and I don’t know if this is just office policy or what) that they only book half of any given day with appointments by rule. The rest of the day is for emergencies, walk-ins etc. So, in theory, I could be seen almost any day (which was what he reccomended if they tried black-balling me again).

Good for you - doctors need some feedback on what’s going on in their own offices. I was going to mention insisting on leaving a message for your doctor, but frankly I wasn’t sure if they’d actually give it to him.

I used to schedule clinic appointments in a pediatric cardiology clinic. We had clinic 3 days a week at that particular location, and the doctors would see patients at other clinics as well. A certain number of appointment slots were left for walk-in/urgent visits. People who handled scheduling appointments were told about certain symptoms/ages that were particularly urgent, and if you weren’t sure, take a message and page the doctor to ask.

Teenagers complaining of chest pain were always the annoying cases. They were almost certainly just skeletomuscular pain, but if you put off the appointment too long you risked getting one of those “teenager drops dead on the basketball court; parents say the cardiologist delayed seeing their teen” cases. So inevitably we’d overbook the clinic, overloading the doctor and nurse who had to handle all those patients, and the doc would end up requesting a couple tests then sending the referring physician a letter saying nothing’s wrong. That’s good news, mind you, but we just sighed over the continual overbooking we ended up doing. We couldn’t just add clinic time because we shared the clinic space with other departments in pediatrics, and parents didn’t always want to (or couldn’t due to insurance/transportation/schedule) see their doctor at a different clinic.

Then you had the parents who would cancel and reschedule appointment after appointment, to the point where you considered sending out the “we’re going to call DCFS” letter, and then suddenly the parent would be on the phone demanding to see the doctor today because their kid isn’t doing so well lately. Or the parents of kids with benign heart murmurs who would miss their appointment for the yearly checkup, then freak out when they called in the day after and hear that the next appointment (for non-urgent cases) was a month away. “My child has a heart condition!” I always longed to reply, “Yeah, so do all our other patients - if you were so worried, you should have come to the appointment or called us to reschedule when you got the reminder message.”

But I digress. Contacting the doctor if you honestly think that you need to be seen sooner (I don’t question that in your case, Rooves) is the best way to go. If I wasn’t sure or if the parent requested it, I would leave a message for the doctor. If the doctor replied that it was important to be seen soon, I would call the parent back and set up an appointment for when the doctor suggested. If the doctor didn’t think so, I would tell the parent that the doctor thought it could wait, but if that wasn’t a satisfying response, I would leave another message asking the doctor to call the parent directly.