Is Losing A Patient Worth $1.77?

by eyetee | October 1, 2009 12:00 am

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.

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.

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