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Is Losing A Patient Worth $1.77?

I recently  had a skin biopsy performed by a dermatologist.  When the results came in, I asked the receptionist to kindly send me a copy of the biopsy report.

“Are you aware of the $1.77 fee?” she asked.  After I fell off my chair, I managed to ask why there is a fee. And why $1.77?

She didn’t have a good answer.  She just works there.  I considered never going back ever again. But I thought that talking with the dermatologist would be the mature thing to do.

Amazingly, he called back.  He explained that some patients have very complicated files, sometimes with hundreds of pages. That surely is a good reason. But I just needed one copy, not hundreds. He could not explain why the fee is $1.77, as opposed to $1.78 or $2.

But he seemed to realize that the fee was a little bit silly, and spontaneously offered to waive the fee “as a professional courtesy.”

Obviously, because Veterinary Practice News is a very generous employer, I could easily have afforded the $1.77 without skipping a meal. The amount is not the issue.

The issue is the concept.  In our surgical referral clinic, we routinely render free services to our clients.

“Yes, Ms. Murphy, I would be happy to mail you a copy of Fluffy’s biopsy report so you can show your hairdresser.”

“Of course, Mr. Kennedy, we’ll mail a copy of Jodi’s medical record before you move out of state.”

Never would we consider charging clients for photocopies. After all, I didn’t graduate from Office Depot University. We also “give away” more expensive items, such as copies of digital X-rays on a CD-ROM.

I asked a couple of hospital managers how they feel about the stupid $1.77 fee. They were a little bit surprised, and agreed that they wouldn’t charge a client for a mere photocopy.

Allyson, my wonderful hospital administrator, kindly asked half a dozen of her colleagues, all at large hospitals. They all said that they wouldn’t charge a client.

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What makes us different? We probably have overhead costs similar to physicians, and get supplies from similar stores.

How would you have reacted in a similar situation? Would you have inquired? Would you have paid, no questions asked?

Would you ever consider charging a client for a photocopy?  Or for mailing copies of the medical record?

Is a patient worth $1.77, especially in this economy?

By the way, thanks for asking. My biopsy was benign.

3 thoughts on “Is Losing A Patient Worth $1.77?

  1. Thats crazy! $1.77 for one piece of paper.
    I know that all of these places are “businesses” but c’mon, really is a photocopy the correct way to make an easy buck?!

  2. We give away all too much at our practice, but we have happy, nice clients for the most part. We would not charge that.

    Occasionally, I have a new patient come in that needs sutures removed. They ask the receptionist what is the fee to pay and are shocked we didn’t charge them. Guess what? We just earned a client.

  3. This is likely from a lawsuit or legal situation. Attorney offices usually offer to pay for copies for legal documents such as medical records for cases and they, in turn, charge them to their clients. I suppose it was a fee that was issued at one point and never adjusted for a period of time. Electronic copies to clients should not warrant a fee, but if a client wants all the paper records for multiple pets that could tie up a staff member for a while, I don’t fault a practice asking the time to be covered. Surgeons and specialists do not have to worry about extensive paper records for a family because they usually are dealing with a referral caseload.

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