Patient Service Training

Patient Service Training

Family Medical Group NE,P.C.

By Cassandra Garcia, Concordia University Student Intern


Our last patient satisfaction survey, known as a CAPHS survey indicated FMG could do a better job in communicating with our patients. In looking at ways to improve in this area, we thought we could benefit from communication training to help with those difficult discussions that sometimes come up in our daily work. Instead of a lecture format, we decided to ask our Patient-Family Advisors to assist us with developing this training using real life situations.  We felt it would be invaluable for staff to hear the patient’s perspective in the communication process.


The Process:


At a recent staff meeting, we asked for examples of patient encounters that staff felt could benefit from some communication training. We took these scenarios to our Patient-Family Advisory council (PFAC) and asked them for their feedback. This became the basis of our staff training. The goal of the in-service was to help staff better address the patient’s needs and be more effective in communicating with patients when they were unable to handle the request.


On June 23, 2016, Family Medical Group (FMG) closed the clinic at 4:00pm for this training session. We invited PFAC members to help us with our training. After each of several scenarios, the group stopped and critiqued the experience. Patient advisors shared their feelings and observation from the patient point of view. We then repeated the scenarios employing the suggestions from the PFAC members and observers. At the end of the scenarios, the group discussed their findings and we recorded these as best practices.   


Surprising outcomes from this training session, were the comments from our patient advisors. They felt they learned the reasons why sometimes their requests could not be accomplished. They suggested it would be beneficial for our patients if we wrote up the training to share those reasons with our patients. We felt this was a wonderful idea and decided to post an article about the training on our webpage.


The following were the scenarios used in this training session.

Group Thumbs Up



Scenario 1 & 2- Why the provider requires a visit before he/she will refill a prescription.

The first two scenarios focused on patients feeling that the provider was holding their prescriptionhostage” by requiring a visit before they would call in a medication refill.


In the first scenario, the patient had a bladder infection and just wanted a medication called in. They had a history of having bladder infections in the past and did not see the need to come in for a visit.

In the second scenario, the patient was on an estrogen replacement medication for a long time.  She did not see the need to come in every six months or yearly  to be seen.  She expressed concern that the doctor was just trying to increase his revenue.

During these two scenarios we looked at more effective ways for staff to communicate with our patients about the reasons why it is necessary for regular follow-up and how to present the information in a professional manner.



The reason:

The providers and the medical assistants are being vigilant about the patient’s care. In the first scenario, the provider wants the patient to come in so they can do a brief history of the symptoms and then perform a urinalysis to make sure they are prescribing an antibiotic that is effective in treating the bacteria. Even if the symptoms are the same, it may be a different “bug”. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to drug resistant bacteria or “superbugs”. Our physicians want to ensure the antibiotic is necessary and if needed, that it is effective in treating the patient’s infection.


In the second scenario, the patient has been on a medication for a long time and doesn’t see the need to come in for the visit. Many medications have side effects. Providers require a patient to be up-to-date on their exams and required lab tests, before refilling. 


Scenario 3- Same day/ last minute requests medication refills.

This scenario focused on patients that call the office and/or their pharmacy requesting an early medication refill before they are due, or call the same day for a refill.  Sometimes this occurs when a patient is going out of town, or has another immediate need. 


Prescription refills generally require a provider’s authorization to refill and so the practice typically asks for two days to complete the request. The group discussed what could be done to accommodate the patient.   Front Office could work the patient in for an exam, or a provider could authorize the refill if the patient scheduled a future appointment.  






The reason:

Depending on the medications being taken, the medications may need to be monitored. Some insurances do not pay for medications if they are filled early.  Also with providers having a day off per week, the patient’s physician may be out of the office and the refill authorization would need to be approved by another provider, who is unfamiliar with the patient’s history.  


Scenario 4- Why do I need to take another test before receiving my medication.

This scenario was about patients questioning why they need to come in for lab work prior to receiving their prescription. Patients sometimes tell our staff they think that it is a waste of money and their time to be required to have an exam or blood test every year.



The reason:


Some prescriptions (for example, thyroid and cholesterol medications) need regular monitoring. Other medications like diabetic medications need to be followed more closely, as changes in diet could result in the need for a medication change.



Other take aways from the training session:

·     We want to do our best for our patients: Staff and providers want to do the best for our patients.  

·      Reduce the time frame on call backs: Work to return patient calls as quickly as possible. Patient’s get frustrated when they have to sit and wait for a callback. If you know the provider or medical assistant is busy with another patient, explain to the patient that it may be the end of the day before it’s possible to return their call. Ask the patient if it’s okay to return the call after hours. If yes, be sure to get an after hours phone number.

·     Communicating with the provider about a patient’s needs: Do your best to act as a patient advocate. Explain your understanding of the call to the provider so they may know the full story.

·     Sincerity on concerns: Sometimes patients feel like we aren’t hearing their needs. Actively listen for underlying issues. There may be a very important reason for an earlier refill or request for assistance.  Do your best to help the patient. Feel free to let the patient know you will do all you can, but sometimes there are other factors that may make it hard to do so.

·     Acknowledge the patient’s issues:  Acknowledge the patient’s concerns so they know you hear them and realize this might be a special or unusual situation.   


How do I become a PFAC Advisor:

Does being a patient advisor appeal to you? Do you have thoughts you want to share with your provider’s office to improve the care at your clinic? Then consider being a patient advisor on our PFAC committee and make a difference in how we deliver healthcare.


The commitment:

·         4 meetings a year, usually on a Thursday afternoon at 4:00pm.

·         We ask for our patients’ input on new processes and workflow as well as training tools.

·         We ask that patients provide us with their honest opinion.

·         We welcome suggestions.


How do I apply?

If interested, contact our administrator or anyone on your care team. They will give you an application to apply.






Patient-Family Advisory Council (PFAC): The Patient Family Advisory Council partners patients and families with the members of a healthcare team to provide guidance on how to improve the patient and family experience of care. As part of this process, patients and families are invited to serve on a committee to ensure that the consumers point of view and experience are not only heard, but also integrated into