It seems to me that as the local health networks continue to expand their footprint as they naturally do with growth, that accountability for their actions often seems to be forgotten. It is often replaced with the platitudes similar to “I’m not sure why that happened to you” as opposed to actually investigating a situation to determine where the system failed and preventing it from happening again.
Here is just one such example that is still an ongoing saga to which I devoted about 40 minutes on the phone again today trying to get to the bottom of it and was basically told that while it made no sense that these things happened, there’s nothing they can do to prevent it in the future. This is entirely unacceptable and as patients or more bluntly as consumers, we deserve better. It’s time we find a way to work together and open the lines of communication between providers and patients to increase accountability and awareness of issues when they arise, as they often will, because no health system or business, for that matter, are perfect or infallible.
So last Thursday I was to have a follow-up appointment with a specialist’s office and see an advanced practitioner that day instead of the doctor. I’ve encountered some phenomenal advanced practitioners over the years so had no problem with that. My issue was that the Tuesday or Wednesday prior to my appointment I got a telephone call late in the afternoon informing me that my labwork was too old to be useful and that I needed to go get more blood drawn that night in order to keep my appointment, otherwise they would cancel it and I would have to reschedule.
There was no way I could go get the labs redrawn on such short notice and as such they cancelled my appointment and told me they would call me back to reschedule it but that they had put the orders in the computer system so all I had to do was go to any network facility to have the required labs drawn. Sounds simple enough, right?
Friday morning after physical therapy at one of their facilities I go to get the labs drawn. I register at the front desk for the x-rays I needed for another specialist, but am informed that there are no orders for bloodwork in the system from the specialist’s office. I had other obligations and no time to wait to try to sort it out with the physician’s office at that moment, but I did call their office a few hours later that same day.
I was informed that my version of events was absolutely accurate and that my chart showed the same documentation as the items I’ve described above and that in fact someone had not put the orders in the system. There was some confusion, it seemed, as to why I needed new labwork performed, who decided this, and what precisely they wanted repeated as this aspect of things was not documented in my chart. Once again I was told they would look into it and get back to me.
Fast forward to Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) and I received a voicemail from a female who I believe stated she was a physician, though not one of my normal physicians, stating she got my message and that the labs I had done a couple of months ago were fine, but that I failed to show up for my follow-up appointment and I must call her immediately.
I call the number she left in the voicemail and nobody in that office seems to have a clue as to what is going on, what I’m talking about, or why someone other than my physician or his advanced practitioner would call me. After being disconnected three times, waiting on hold for what I believe was about 10 minutes, I was no closer to sorting out this mystery and worse yet I was losing time from a project sitting on the phone with them.
Eventually, I got transferred to another office and after speaking with and being transferred to three more people I finally got someone who seemed to comprehend what I was saying and agreed that things made no sense. She apologized but asked if she could put me on hold to talk to her colleague and a nurse about this and try to get to the bottom of it. She came back on the phone about two or three minutes later and informed me that I should not have been told any of that prior.
My labs were suitable for the follow-up and she has no clue who authorized that order or to cancel my original appointment last week. She proceeded to offer me times to come in for the appointment tomorrow, Wednesday, but this means me taking even more time away from other obligations in order to do so and this will be the third day I’ve lost time trying to accomplish what could have just been done in one day as it had originally been ordered.
Unfortunately, when I inquired as to what they could do to prevent this from happening again to someone else I was informed that they can’t prevent it because they don’t know how or why it happened in the first place. While they may not be cognizant of how or why it happened, you would think they would care enough to investigate it or at the very least put procedures in place so it can’t happen again so easily.
I realize healthcare is a business and speaking realistically if customers were treated with such disregard for their major part in the business of healthcare in nearly any other business environment, there would be outrage, boycotts of that business entity, and eventually they would likely go bankrupt and close because they did not provide value to their clientele. Yet, in healthcare, all too often it is simply accepted as the norm and that there’s nothing we can do about it.
We as patients, and yes even consumers of healthcare, have got to find a way to work with providers in order to open effective communication and impress upon the healthcare field that we deserve the same respect that providers demand. If patients are more than 5 to 15 minutes late for an appointment they are rescheduled and sometimes even charged a no-show fee for failing to cancel more than 24 hours prior to their scheduled appointment.
Yet physician’s offices routinely run more than 15 minutes behind and sometimes hours behind and we have no recourse and are forced to accept it as normal. I took time out of my schedule three separate days to sort out an issue that by their own admission never should have even happened. Now I have to take time out of my schedule for a fourth day to go to the appointment that never should have been canceled in the first place.
Patients and providers need to find a way to communicate effectively and together to improve the healthcare system so that we can all have a better understanding of what each other experiences and how we can try to improve the system as a whole, without playing the blame game. I don’t blame anyone in particular for the experience I’ve shared above. I blame an ever fragmented and siloed system of healthcare in which patients have little to no voice and it is not uncommon for the physician to never even be made aware of a problem because there are so many layers between them and the patients.
What are your thoughts on how we can work together to improve healthcare?