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PATIENT SAFETY

Is your medical office prepared to accommodate an aging population?

Talk of an aging population isn’t idle chatter. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2030 will mark a significant turning point in the nation’s history. By then, all baby boomers will be older than 65. This means that one in every five residents will be retirement age. An aging population presents increasing challenges from the standpoint of health care and related patient service issues. Is your medical office prepared?

Beyond the Requirements

Although your office has already addressed accessibility as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are other steps you can and should take to accommodate older patients.

Here are a few places to focus.

  • Office entry. Are the doors that lead to your facility easy to open? Even if your doors have an accessibility button, elderly patients who do not have a disability may be reluctant to use the button. Bottom line: It shouldn’t require superhuman strength to open your facility’s doors.
  • While you’re checking the doors, take note of any rugs or welcome mats that may be in or near the entry area. Do they tend to slip or roll up? If so, replace them or eliminate rugs altogether.
  • Patient check-in. Review your patient check-in area. Is there a counter or table at or near the window where a patient can place a wallet or handbag, as he or she looks for her insurance card?
  • If a patient is required to fill out forms, is it clear what information is required? Is the type size large enough, so that it’s easy to read? Are the boxes large enough to enter required information? It goes without saying that you should also provide a pen and a clipboard.
  • Reception area. What is the seating like in your reception area? Is it sturdy and comfort height? Do chairs have arms, to facilitate sitting down and getting up?
  • Sample collection areas. What is the seating like in exam and consultation rooms? Here again, chairs should be sturdy and comfort height, and have arms.
  • If a patient must recline, is there a sturdy stool to facilitate getting onto the examination table?
  • Communication. When leaving phone messages, do you clearly state the purpose of your call and repeat the information? Do you always leave a callback number?
  • Are bills for services performed easy to read and understand? Take a look at a patient invoice with attention to information provided. Is it clear what the charge is for? Is there a number to call with any questions?
  • Also look at layout and type size. A number of top companies, including Verizon, have dramatically increased the type size used on their paper bills, to make it easier for customers to read and understand the charges.
  • When reviewing your office’s communication practices, ask yourself if your grandmother would be comfortable receiving a phone message like the ones you typically leave, or if she could clearly understand your standard invoice. If not, make the necessary changes.

Editor’s picks:

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Patients with disabilities: your guide to basic etiquette


What is the ‘patient experience’ like at your medical practice?


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