Is My Doctor’s Office Harassing Me?

Woman on the phone.“Some of our patients think we’re harassing them when we call them!” That’s what a practice manager recently told me.

I’m working with her practice on becoming recognized as a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) through the National Commission on Quality Assurance (NCQA) process. One of the elements that this practice is working on is an increased focus on population management. That means creating lists of patients and contacting them to schedule an appointment.

Practices are encouraged to develop lists of patients based on the following care concepts:

  • Prevention
  • Chronic disease management
  • Patients who haven’t been seen in awhile
  • Patients on a specific medication.

It may seem like an easy task, but developing lists of patients around specific topics can be tricky. Most primary care practices are used to busy schedules and focusing on one patient at a time as they come through the door. Population management requires the practice to think about an entire group of patients, such as everyone who has diabetes, and how patients as a group are meeting specific care goals.

I like to say this is the home part of the Patient-Centered Medical Home. That’s because, to me, what makes someone feel at home is being cared for. The idea here is this: when the primary care practice reaches out to patients to remind them of important appointments, including prevention screenings, this should make that patient feel cared for.

But to a patient who isn’t used to this approach, it can feel intrusive. The practice manager I’m working with said, “These patients thought we were just trying to get them in the office so we could make more money.”

In today’s world it’s understandable why people might think that. Sometimes it seems like everyone’s just trying to get ahead…oftentimes at your expense.

But here’s where the opportunity exists. Your primary care practice as Patient-Centered Medical Home IS trying to get ahead…at providing the best quality of care for its patients.

Studies about PCMH are showing this is the case. PCMHs save the system money, provide higher quality of care, and improve patient outcomes. Don’t trust my word for it, check out the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative report on PCMH evidence of quality care.

I think it all revolves around the changing role in primary care and the patient’s evolving role as partner in their own healthcare. You are an important part of your healthcare team!

So, when your primary care office calls saying it’s time for a preventive screening, think of it as a partnership in health and your PCMH team is helping you be your best. Check out these posts out for more on how to Be Your Own Healthcare CEO.

2 Responses to “Is My Doctor’s Office Harassing Me?”

  1. Allison says:

    I hear what you are saying about the concept, and it sounds fine. But I have a dental office that has emailed and called no less than 10 times in 4 months. They’ve mailed unsolicited medical payment cards, letters, left voice mails, I’ve caught a few calls. They even called once to ‘remind’ me of an appointment when I hadn’t made one. “Please keep in mind, this time has been set aside especially for you, so if you can’t make your scheduled appoinent, please call to reschedule”. That was a week or so ago, and they just left me a new voicemail.

  2. Marly McMillen Beelman says:

    Allison – you raise a really good point. There is a fine line between reminders that are convenient and useful to the patient and downright annoying. Medical practices need to keep this in mind when they’re setting parameters or guidelines on their reminders. If a patient doesn’t respond…they may not be that into you!

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