Mixed Messages.

Day 26. National Blog Posting Month.

My professional trust has been shaken. There was an incident at my office last week. A patient was given a test result over the phone by one of our front desk staff without consulting with the physician (wasn’t me) first. This patient was told his results were all normal but in fact one critical result was not yet reported and he wasn’t told that. So he was under the assumption that all if his tests were back and reported as normal. You can imagine his surprise when he was called back a few days later and told that the one test he wanted a result on was in fact was never done by the lab and he needed to repeat it.

The physician, my colleague, was quite upset by the encounter and rightly so. This physician confronted out staff and explained in no uncertain terms that any test result given to a patient must first be authorized by the attending physician. Obviously the assumption is that our staff are not trained in interpreting results nor would they know if all tests that were done were in fact reported back.

Yet on that same day, this colleague was covering lab results for another colleague (not me) and instead of reviewing the labs as requested, the physician delegated the task to the front desk staff. “Please look at Dr.X’s labs and tell me if there’s anything abnormal I need to look at.”

Excuse me?

On the one hand, the front staff is not competent to give test results to patients without express consent from the attending physician while on the other, the same staff member is competent enough to review test results for the physician?


I have reviewed this physician’s labs on countless occasions when they’ve been away on vacation.  I have stayed late doing so as I have an equally busy practice. I am flabbergasted that this physician would actually delegate this task to our staff when they told our colleague they would review the labs. I don’t even know how to address this with the physician, I am so disappointed and upset.

5 thoughts on “Mixed Messages.

  1. Wow. That is quite unbelievable. I don’t blame you for being upset about this. Maybe you need to talk about it with your other co-physicians before addressing the situation?

    • I have and the response I got was quite measured with an ounce of defense for the physician (they have been working together much longer). We will be discussing tomorrow and I am trying to find a way not to completely explode when it happens.

  2. That’s just pure laziness on the physician’s part. The front staff should just flag everything so he will get the hint they have no idea what they are looking at. I can’t stand lazy colleagues who takes shortcuts.

  3. Oh, man. Do you you ever prepare for your conversations as if you’re having them? Preparing for what I’ll say–and most likely questions, positive and negative–helps me more easily navigate through tough conversations. (I almost typed “like this,” but obviously don’t have any experience like this.) Good luck!

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