COMMENTARY

Medical Software Templates: Use at Your Own Peril

Allan M. Block, MD

November 10, 2022

Dr Allan Block

Recently a fax showed up containing a patient referral, which is a pretty normal event around here. It was from a doctor I've never heard of, but that's not surprising. The medical field is always in turnover.

Like most fax referrals, this one had a cover sheet and briefly explained who the patient is, who referred them, and why. But under that it said: "By receiving this fax you agree to the following conditions:

  1. You will contact the patient within 24 hours of receipt.

  2. The patient will be seen within 1 week of contacting them.

  3. You will provide a report to the referring physician within 24 hours of seeing the patient."

Okay ...

Who are these people?

Does anyone else think the tone is kind of grating, if not rude? It sounds like they're telling me how to run my office.

"By receiving this fax ..." what does that mean? I receive faxes all day, most of them telling me about great vacation deals, low prices on Botox, and medical supplies I don't need. Just because I receive them doesn't mean anything.

And, as I've previously written here, my office policy is that we don't call patients just based on a fax. That opens up a whole new can of worms. It's up to patients to call us.

But realistically, the other doctor may have no idea it's on their cover sheet. It could be the work of a receptionist, or office manager, or just the default page for a software suite they use. In fact, the last one is the most likely cause.

One of the problems (there are too many to count, but I'm just going to address this one) in medical office software is the option to use templates. Use them at your own peril. If you're not paying attention, you might sound incompetent at worst and rude at best.

Even something as innocuous as a fax cover sheet, written by a nonmedical person, can sound bad.

Regardless of how harmless and unintentional it might be, it can leave a bad taste in the mouths of patients and other offices. If something that minor isn't good, I'm hoping someone is checking the templates for patient visits.

I'm sure no offense was meant, and none was taken. But it reinforces that any sort of default setting in medical office software can't be taken for granted. Unless you (or a trusted person who knows your habits) checks it, you run the risk of it coming back to bite you.

Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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