I just have to say that phone calls to patients are both a pleasure of mine AND a major time suck. I would love to hear other NPs policies on awkward phone calls with patients. Here are a few of my thoughts:
If a patient has an expensive, worrisome scan (CT,MRI) that I ordered I try to honor that with a phone call back promptly when I get the report. I want to immediately alleviate their worries and let them know the results. However, this can go bad quickly because as we all know, some of these scan bring up a gazillion "incidentelomas" that are just impossible to explain and plan for over the phone. In those cases I have learned to say "your scan was negative for X and nothing *life threatening* is going on right now, but we need to review your scan IN person IN office to plan and follow up for other things found on your scan.
For follow-up labs I have learned to FLAT OUT tell people when they are in the office: if all if your lab work is perfect and nothing needs to be changed or added, I will have the office nurse call you. If your labs are out of range and a med needs to be tweaked or added, you must come in...it's just too much to go over on the phone. I did that for awhile (calling the patient and explaining on the phone) and just got sucked into long painful phone calls about side effects, risks, benefits, etc. I just don't feel it can and should be done on the phone.
It quite honestly took me at least a year of practice to figure out how to do phone calls the correct way to avoid a situation where the patient doesn't understand what is going on and then also to avoid a situation where I am quite literally caught on the phone for 20 minutes of completely unbillable time! Communication with patients was not adequately covered in school.
Other situations...I'm still learning how to find the balance of not getting sucked in over the phone but also being able to communicate somehow with the patient. Yes, we have an office LVN but let's face it, sometimes that's just not an effective way either.
I would LOVE to hear from those of you who feel they have this balanced all out and never get caught for those long conversations "while I have you on the phone...let me ask you about this....." Do you bill for phone calls? What is your office policy?
Oh, and we are a super small family practice so we are not quite yet moved to EMR although that is coming.