To doctors, summer vacationers can be more painful to deal with than a sunburn on the 4th of July. Being located in the popular tourist destination of Charleston, S.C., Frederick Schaffer, MD, clinical associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, and his students, know firsthand that it is never easy working with patients vacationing from out of town. Schaffer, also chief medical officer of United Allergy Services, shared with Healthcare Finance News five tips for doctors dealing with summer vacationers.

1. Have your first aid kit well stocked. One of the best ways to combat the common medical issues that vacationers deal with is to have knowledge of those areas, Schaffer said. Physicians should have a concept of dealing with things like asthma, allergies and skin sensitivity to the sun.

2. Don’t leave your lunch money behind. One of the difficult parts of working with a patient who is new to your practice or hospital is collecting payments. If payment collection is going to be successful, said Schaffer, payment details should be worked out in advance of seeing the patient. “It takes phone calls and time,” he said. However, he added, “doing that in cases of emergency can be challenging.”

3. Raise your hand. Physicians need to be proactive to let folks, who may have traveled thousands of miles to an unfamiliar place, know they are there. “If someone is flying into a vacation area, you want to make sure they are aware of your existence,” Schaffer said.

Schaffer said marketing campaigns should focus on how to reach summer vacationers and folks who are there on a temporary basis. Even local advertisements targeting vacationers can be effective.

4. Use a buddy system. Physicians should partner with places like local universities to utilize their resources in order to help vacationers be proactive and avoid hospital visits or multiple visits to the local physician. Physicians can utilize data regularly made available by many institutes of higher education such as pollen counts, air pollution and general weather conditions. If partnering is not an option, many local newspapers publish the same sorts of information, he said.

5. Be sure to phone home. One of the most beneficial things a physician can do when dealing with someone who is not their patient is to contact the patient’s family physician, said Schaffer. There are many reasons to communicate with a patient’s regular doctor including learning medical history, allergies and general health issues. “There’s a chance a new physician will prescribe something a patient is not used to,” Schaffer said, and that can cause more problems for the patient.


By Kevin Fuller
July 18, 2013