As a 24-hour emergency hospital, DoveLewis sees a lot of patients that are brand new to our staff. A dog could come to us after ingesting a packet of gum, and that might be the only time in their life that we'll provide veterinary care for them. We’ve also recently expanded our specialty services, and are starting to see an increase in repeat patients for complex, possibly life-long problems. Between these two types of patients, we rely on communication with their referring (or primary) veterinarian more than ever.
In my position as a Specialty CSR, I frequently call primary veterinarians to request records for mutual patients. I also get multiple requests per day from other clinics asking for copies of our own records. I’ve found the best practice for efficient record sharing is to ask them specifically what they’re looking for, how they’d like to receive it (either email or fax), and send it over while we’re still on the phone. Sometimes, clinics are only looking for a most recent visit. Other times they ask for all records that we have, and luckily, we have the ability to sort and send records by date. I’ve noticed that if records aren’t sent while still on the phone, it greatly increases the risk of them being forgotten. All Specialty CSR’s at DoveLewis consistently practice sending records, while on the phone with the requesting clinic, and always include imaging and lab work to make sure they receive everything they need.
I’ve learned since working at DoveLewis that knowing the full patient history is vital in many cases! This has taught me the value of being very clear in the records that I request. Additionally, I’ve learned to ask requesting clinics specific questions about what they’re looking for to make sure they get exactly what they need - the first time. Spending a few extra minutes on the initial phone call can save a game of phone tag later on in the day. It’s also always important to consider that other clinics have different systems, different staffing, and different schedules. They might not have the staffing to stay on the phone while they send records if their clinic is busy, and it’s important to always be respectful of your peer’s time. Even if we’re not co-workers, we’re all working towards the same goal of helping patients. It’s important that we’re understanding of each clinic environment.
There are a few things that you can do help the client, and patient, have the best experience when they arrive at your clinic for the first time. When scheduling, it’s good practice to ask who their primary veterinarian is, if there are other’s they currently, or recently have seen; and if there are other clinics that would have records for their pet. Having this conversation ahead of time, on the phone, helps us prepare for their visit and make sure we have everything we need. It also takes stress off of a client to know that they are not responsible for relaying medical information between two clinics.
Given my experience here at DoveLewis, here are three quick tips to make record sharing a smooth process!
Tip 1: Prepare and be specific. Know what you're calling for before you dial! If your doctor has asked you to collect the last six months of history, make sure you ask for the last six months of history. If you only need the most recent visit from another clinic, don't make them send the last five years. Can your clinic use test results from a referring specialist, (so you won’t need to charge the client again for the same service)? Ask for the results. It also helps to ask for any recent imaging or file attachments, if needed, as some clinic software may not include it automatically.
Tip 2: Be thorough when speaking with the client. Asking the client for clinics they’ve seen helps streamline the process, and ensure we can track down everything we need prior to their visit. Did they go to a Banfield? Great! Which location? Did they take their pet one time, three months ago, to a cardiologist? Awesome! Who did they see? Most of the time, clients would rather spend an additional five minutes on the phone with you prior to arrival, than sit in the lobby for an additional 30 while you track down their pet’s history.
Tip 3: Set your peers up for success. When receiving requests from other clinics, treat them with the same level of detail that you treat your clients' requests. Utilize your own expertise to make the process as smooth as possible. If they don’t specify, ask if they’d like everything you have on file or just a specific visit. If you have tests that were completed at your clinic that might be helpful for them to have, offer to include them. If they haven’t mentioned how they want the records sent, before you get off the phone make sure you know the correct fax number or email address. Record sharing is a two-way street, and taking extra time to help your local clinics can make a big impact in your relationships.