Does Your Doctor’s Office Pass the Test?

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If you are like me, you look for a restaurant score before you order food. If the score is not acceptable, I move on. Have you ever wondered what type of score your doctor’s office would receive or has received from organizations that may be able to conduct an office site visit? I am on a mission to empower you, the patient, when it comes to making the right decisions about your healthcare providers. One of the things you should consider is how safe is your doctor’s office. Why? Your health plan does an office site visit on all of your primary care providers, your Gynecologist, Family Meds, or Pediatricians, but only when they first sign up to offer their services. Subsequently, no one goes back to visit those offices or to a specialist’s office unless they start to receive complaints. Most health plans have a threshold of complaints that have to be met. If you and your fellow patients are keeping quiet and not complaining, your doctor’s office may never meet your standards.


So what does a health plan look for and why? Well, first of all CMS, your state Medicaid regulations, and the health plan’s accrediting body have some established criteria. But, you can create your own score cards with similar criteria or use the one below to assess a doctor’s office all on your own. Use these 3 categories: Not Met at 0%, Partially Met at 50%, and Met at 100%. Your health plan will have something a little more complex, but let’s keep it simple so you can assess your doctor’s office on your own. To show you how, I am going to walk you through a doctor’s visit I have personally experienced. I want you to score that visit to see if his office passed the test.


Oh, as a rule several options may apply to one criteria and I am going to say check whenever you should assess something. I will let you choose which one, and then you can use it to score your doctor’s office.


A couple of years ago, my youngest daughter gave birth to a beautiful little boy. Since he was here in my hometown, and his grandma was a seasoned healthcare credentialing professional, I was going to make sure he had the best pediatrician. Of course, I had my own criteria before we even arrived at the office. The first set of criteria had to do with competency, the license, and board certification. Had to be sure there were no sanctions or disciplinary actions attached to him anywhere. Second set of criteria had to do with the office location, insurance, hospital affiliation, and services. Third set of criteria was reputation and recommendations. Was the doctor going to be a match?


With my personal checklist completed and an appointment made, now did my choice pass the Office test? Fast forward to our little one’s fifth day on planet earth. As instructed by the hospital’s staff pediatrician, we went to his primary pediatrician for follow-up care. We arrived early and got a decent parking spot. Check. The elevator to the second floor to the doctor’s office was out of service, though being serviced. We walked up two steep stairwells with all the new baby gear and baby in tow. Check.


We arrived at the office and there was a wellness waiting room and a sick waiting room. We went to the wellness. Check. The lighting in the waiting area was a bit low as if being lit only by sunlight. My doctors’ offices and my children’s former pediatricians, my dentists’ offices are all brightly lit. Hmmm. Why the low level ambience? Check.


We checked in and tried to give the receptionist the paperwork from the hospital that we were told to give to the doctor. I said tried. The receptionist said to give it to the doctor. No problem. Check. Processes differ office to office.


There was ample seating in the waiting room and before we could get settled, we were being escorted to the exam room. Not a long wait. Check. Check. But, oh, on the way to the exam room, we passed an empty nurses station covered in dust under low lighting still. Where are we going in the semi-dark? Check.


Finally, we are in the exam room. A nurse or assistant or whoever, unidentified individual comes in to get basic information. We still have the hospital records. Check.


Baby needs a diaper change. I am changing the diaper as the doctor comes in briefly. He tells me not to wipe the poop but dab, my daughter and I look at him. You had to be there to see the consistency. He peers over at the circumcision. Says he will be right back. Check. Was that it?


As we are about to dispose of the diaper, we notice a sign on the wall over the trash can stating “take your dirty diapers with you.” Check. Luckily we have a cute little bag dispenser and bags to wrap it up tightly so we could take that dirty diaper with us. Check.


I turn to the sink to wash my hands and there is no soap in the soap dispenser. Check. Sure, there was hand sanitizer and I didn’t have soiled hands, but there is nothing more cleansing than good old soap and water.


Now the doctor and his staff are gone long enough to get a good look at the exam room. Splatter stains were on the floor and on the wall. What kind of stains are these? This is a doctor’s office after all, are these stains from body fluids. My radar is now on high alert! Check.


The doctor comes back and takes a brief history and then makes a joke that both my daughter and I found offensive to people of the gay persuasion. Somebody needs a lesson in diversity. I don’t know, if there is a check for that.


The visit is over and we are asked to return in one week due to the baby’s rocky start. He was in NICU for his first 3 days. We nod, we smile, we say okay, and walk right past the receptionist desk on our way out without looking back. That same day the baby was scheduled for another appointment the next day with a new primary pediatrician. That doctor past all the criteria with flying colors.


Are you settling for a lesser healthcare experience? Did our first pediatrician’s office pass the test? Would yours?

PATIENT OFFICE SITE VISIT

Scoring:

  • Not Met at 0%

  • Partially Met at 50%

  • Met at 100%

Criteria:

  1. Adequate Lighting, Appearance

  2. Adequate Space, Waiting Areas, and Public Bathrooms

  3. Clean and Sanitary

  4. Easy to Schedule Appointments

  5. Physical/Handicap Accessibility

  6. Staff is Friendly, Knowledgeable, Helpful

  7. The Person Treating You is Identified as a Doctor, Nurse Practitioner, or Physician Assistant

  8. Wait Time Acceptable

Dilsa S. Bailey, CPMSM – Author of A Comprehensive Guide for Finding the Right Doctor.

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