AMA Advises Doctors to Deflect Patients

The AMA has told doctors, “We can’t help you get vaccines for your patients, but we can give you a fabulous recorded message to tell patients you don’t have it.” 

With an expected high volume of patient inquiries about COVID-19 vaccinations, an AMA template can help physicians and practice staff properly respond using a script for their telephone message and patient portal. A practice’s telephone message to callers should state their office name and the option to press a number to access information about the COVID-19 vaccine. From there, physicians have two options to choose from.

Option 1: At this time, the state of [name of state] task force is continuing to develop a vaccine distribution plan. We will post updates on the practice website as we receive them.

Option 2: Vaccine distribution is currently being managed by [Name of the state agency] on a priority basis. Please contact the agency at [phone number; email; website].

Thank you, American Medical Association. I need that advice like a hole in the head. The AMA should spend more time trying to get vaccines into doctors’ offices rather than creating phone messages. Has the AMA really become so weak?

I understand the problem. My secretary fields multiple calls daily. Large box-store medical practices devise clever phone algorithms to blow off patients since they can’t bill for the service. But, I’m a solo practitioner. I have a different approach. My patients know which button to push to get a friendly human voice. Eighty-year-old Luigi calls 3 times a day pleading with us not to forget him. He doesn’t have the wherewithal to navigate the state’s vaccine website, hoping to score a coveted appointment slot at a sports arena simply to get vaccinated. Luckily yesterday, the independent pharmacist on the corner told us he was getting a shipment and we got Luigi in there. 

I expect the next AMA article will reveal their triumph in creating a new billable CPT code for “assisted patient in locating a COVID-19 vaccine.” After all, they own the CPT codes, and if the mega-hospital networks figure out a way to bill for the interaction, they might actually talk to their patients.

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