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Giving information over the phone

U2.1.15 Giving information over the phone

There have been a couple of related queries received by Membership Services recently so I thought I’d share them with you.

First, there was the frequent query about sharing information with another practice. You will know the situation: a local practice phones you up asking for the details of a prescription as a patient has found a frame they like but doesn’t have their prescription with them. Very annoying isn’t it?

Especially as you spent half of Saturday afternoon helping them choose a frame that they are supposed to be thinking about. Nevertheless, you try to be helpful and give the details

of the prescription. But should you do that over the phone?

It is sensible not to give prescriptions over the telephone for the obvious reason that it can be misheard or misunderstood and you could never prove that you said it correctly, and it was then incorrectly or badly written down.

You can, of course, refuse to give information, quoting the new data protection regulations but I feel that can be a little unkind. What you should do is satisfy yourself that the patient is entitled to the information, that the prescription is in date, and then fax or email it to the new practice. I think it can be helpful to speak to the patient on the phone, to ensure they wish their information to be shared and cover yourself under the new regulations. And, of course, you must note on the records what was said and what actions were taken.

The second query was one in just such a situation. The patient had been wearing progressive power lenses supplied by their optician for many years. She found a frame she liked in another practice but to save costs had agreed to have bifocals instead of her usual progressives. She had her prescription so the spectacles were duly dispensed.

After collection, she encountered problems with intermediate work and complained to the supplying practice. They said the prescription must be incorrect and advised she go back to the issuing practice. To make a sale, the second practice had failed to explain the problems likely to be encountered; indeed, they may well have been unaware themselves if they were not a qualified DO. The patient did not or could not appreciate the subtleties of spectacle dispensing and had bought spectacles that while correct were unsuitable.

How to help? The temptation to say ‘you got what you deserve’ is enormous but achieves very little. The original practice might be magnanimous and offer to re-glaze the new frames with the progressive lenses the patient was used to and keep the patient, or the supplying practice might do the same at the extra cost the patient was trying to avoid.

It is the old story of buyer beware and perhaps the lesson to be learned is to explain to every patient at every dispense why the lenses are best for them, or why a certain frame design would be unsuitable for their prescription.