Banishing frustrations through care navigation: a receptionist’s perspective

Andrea is a reception supervisor at a GP practice in Rotherham. Being on the frontline of general practice, Andrea and her team are no strangers to the frustrations often felt there when it comes to meeting patient demand. Last month, we caught up with her to see how our award-winning care navigation training was making a difference in her practice:

"Speaking as a reception supervisor at the Stag Medical Centre in Rotherham, we are the first point of contact for all our patients. With the introduction of “care navigation”, we can now direct patients to the most appropriate source of help, whether it’s to the pharmacy, physio or ANP for example. I call these “virtual appointments”.

The more services we can navigate patients to, means we are not searching for doctors’ appointments that don’t exist and the doctors are not being overloaded with patients with minor ailments that can be dealt with quickly by another professional service.

Because we are the patients first contact, “care navigation” has helped to appease many peoples' frustrations and anger of not being able to see a doctor. Most of our patients are willing to be seen by “someone” and quickly, and we have learnt to reassure our patients that some of these services such as physio and ANP work alongside our doctors and nurses; they are not replacing them.

Care navigation: learning the ropes

We have had a few problems when care navigating to a physiotherapist appointment. We’ve found it is important to stress to the patient that this is not a “physical session where exercise is done”, and it is a “musculoskeletal assessment”. It’s become an excellent service for our patients and our receptionists are now well trained and feel confident in care navigating to our in-house physios.

We are still learning about what our patients needs are.

I feel there are many more services we can navigate to and I feel very frustrated when trying to help patients who need more than a 10-minute doctor’s appointment, especially elderly people who have no family or carers, Where can they go other than the doctors? Who else can help them? Who can they talk to? Social services maybe? They may just need a walking aid or other equipment to help them stay in their own home for example.

Also, I’ve learnt from my own experience while caring for my father until he passed away, that there is so much more help for people outside of the GP practice. Luckily, because of my job, I was able to access these services. I had GP’s, advice and contact numbers at hand but patients sometimes are unaware of all these services we can use, can we care navigate to these services? I feel it would benefit patients and carers a great deal.

Care navigation: "it can only get better"

In summary, I’m really positive about “care navigation” and I’m sure it can only get better. My role as reception supervisor has improved greatly.

I no longer have receptionists so stressed that they need to have sick leave and we no longer have receptionists crying on a daily basis because they are being shouted at by patients because we can’t offer the patients anything.

We now have options; we have “care navigation”. It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it and get it right for the patients and staff.

The more services we can navigate to will benefit us all. The GP’s will have more time to deal with more serious issues and also the appointment times could increase from a 10-minute appointment to a 15-minute or 20-minute appointment which in fact, we are trialling in our surgery.

In my opinion, the more time you have with a patient, the better quality care you can give."