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    7 tips for leaving a patient alone in the exam room

    Keeping patients comfortable and exam rooms secure

    Tips for leaving a patient alone in an exam roomWhen 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

    Katherine M. Mastrota, MS, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO
    Director of Optometry, New York Hotel Trades Council, Hotel Association of New York City, Health Center, Inc.

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    Optometry Times A/V