7 tips for leaving a patient alone in the exam room

When you leave a patient alone in a room, she is left to her own devices and is free to wreak havoc in your exam room if she so desires. Or look in places not meant for patients. You want your patient to be as comfortable as possible-but you want your exam room to remain intact.

When you leave a patient alone in a room, she is left to her own devices and is free to wreak havoc in your exam room if she so desires. Or look in places not meant for patients. You want your patient to be as comfortable as possible-but you want your exam room to remain intact.

The patient’s visual world looks much different when waiting in a room. Glasses may be off, contact lenses may be out, pupils may be dilated. You need to keep this in mind when patients are left alone in a room. They may not be able to see or see well.

1. Records should remain confidential

Some patients will try to access their records, whether electronic or paper. Although it’s their prerogative to see that information, the record may not yet be completed by the doctor. It’s best to keep that record closed or inaccessible until you or the doctor is ready to share it. Certainly no other patient records should be left in the room or available to view.

2. Control access to Rx pads

They should not be on the desk, in the drawer, or anywhere that patients can have access to them. There have been occasions when patients try to write their own Rx for medications or contact lenses. Of course, this is not in the patients’ best interests-plus it’s illegal.

3. Make sure that the patient is comfortable

Ask if she needs anything. Make sure you put the lights on and bring the chair and armrest down. If the patient uses a cane or walker, ensure it’s close enough that if she needs to get up, she can. You don’t want a fall in the exam room.

Offer your patient water, coffee, or tea, or whatever your office provides. Ask if she would like a magazine to pass the time.

Be sure the temperature is comfortable for your patient. An open window may feel refreshing to you, but elderly patients may be shivering. Offer to turn the heat or air conditioning up or down, if needed.

Give an estimate of when the doctor will be in. Be sure you mean it. Don’t say, “The doctor will be right in,” when you know it will be at least 20 minutes. Be honest so patients have a clear understanding. This also avoids the patient coming out of the room in search of you or the doctor. If the wait will be more than a few minutes, ask if the patient would prefer to wait in the reception area.

If the wait is longer than you anticipated, you or another staffer should stop by now and again to acknowledge the patient’s wait. This is common courtesy and avoids the patient feeling forgotten.

Next: Tips 4-7

 

4. Neaten up the office before you walk out

Move the slip lamp and phoropter out of the way, turn the tonometer around and move off to the side, and keep all instrumentation out of the way. Zero oculars or set them to your doctor’s preference. Change chin rest papers if they’ve become soiled during your examination. Check the slit lamp for any fluorescein drips and ensure the equipment is wiped clean. You need to protect your equipment as well as the patient. Tuck the doctor’s stool out of the way.

If the next person coming in is the doctor, make sure all patient belongings are out of the way-hat off the head, purse off the lap. Keep the foot pedals clear. The doctor should be able to come in and immediately get started with a clear path to the patient.

Of course, patients should still be able to reach their things from the exam chair while they’re waiting. Our office has a companion chair within arm’s reach for patients to easily access a purse, briefcase, or other personal items.

If the patient’s coat hasn’t already been hung or moved out of the way, offer to do so.

5. Remember the door

Make sure the door is left open or closed as the practice dictates. A closed door prevents patients from overhearing conversations. However, an open door may prevent the patient from feeling isolated. If you do close the door, don’t forget the patient is in the exam room!

6. Neaten the desk area

Cap all drop bottles. Put all handheld equipment back in its designated place. Dispose of used alcohol pads, fluorescein strips, etc. That’s common courtesy to keep the area neat and meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Patients appreciate your fastidiousness in keeping an exam room clean. Instrument covers shouldn’t be balled up or tossed on the floor. Fold them neatly and store appropriately.

7. Stock the exam room.

Although this is an end-of-day or start-of-day task, things can run out. If there are only a few drops of proparacaine, open a new bottle. If there’s a printer in the room, be sure the paper tray is filled (and another ream waiting) and the ink or toner is sufficient.ODT