if you had a 7pm dinner reservation and the restaurant kept you waiting until 8:30 to be seated, you’d have plenty to say, right? maybe you wouldn’t even stick around until 8:30 because there are always plenty of other restaurants who will seat you right away and serve you good food. you’d probably post something on social media to warn others and you’d most certainly tell people about your lousy experience.
so why do we put up with the nonsense from our doctors and the healthcare system?
my blood pressure is still elevated after trying to play catch up with doctor’s appointments over the past couple of weeks. i’m not ill, i just wanted to change my primary care doctor and i needed some prescriptions refilled and got a recommendation to see an ear, nose and throat specialist regarding the tinnitus in my right ear.
changing primary care doctors was far more work and aggravation than necessary. it occurs to me that i should be in primary control of my personal health records with my doctor as a co-guardian so that they go where i go and i don’t have to beg and cajole and pay to get them moved.
after i finally got everything moved and had my appointment and my bloodwork done, i asked for the one thing i needed all along – prescription refills. guess what was the one thing the doctor didn’t do even after i reminded her.
next was the ear, nose and throat specialist. the ent specialist’s office was very nice when i called to make the appointment and told me to download the new patient forms and fill them out before the appointment. being the dutiful patient that i am, i do just that. after searching for the building that houses the ent doctor, since there is no address number on the building, i arrive at the office with papers in hand.
i hand over my new patient paperwork only to be greeted with a disgusted harrumph by the front office person who hands me a clipboard with new patient paperwork and a snarl that the paperwork i have is not correct. when i sit down to fill out the new patient paperwork, i discover that what i had downloaded was actually the updated version of the paperwork i was handed. rather than argue with the rude staff, i filled out the second set of paperwork, which would have gone a lot faster if i had had the old paperwork to copy from.
paperwork done, i waited to be taken back for my 3pm appointment. by 4:05 i was still sitting the waiting room. i wasted an entire hour listening to the office staff complain about everything under the sun, as well as work as inefficiently as possible due to their obvious lack of computer knowledge. by 4:15, i was thinking about leaving because the time on my parking meter was about to run out and i was just thoroughly disgusted by the wait time, not to mention the staff’s attitude. problem was, they took my insurance card and clipped it to my file so i’d have to confront the staff to get it back.
just as i was contemplating my escape, i heard the rude office staffer say to another staffer, “take this lady back before anyone else”, at which point i look up to see a dramatic roll of the eyes. i wait to see whether i’m the one taken back next, which would make me the “lady”. sure enough. i’m put in an exam room where i wait another 20 minutes before the doctor shows up.
the doctor was pleasant and knowledgeable but rushed. i waited 90 minutes for her but she can’t spend more than 10 with me.
i have a quick exam and some audiology tests then meet with the doctor again who tells me about as much as i already knew from reading about tinnitus on the internet. she tells me to get an mri to rule out something that she doesn’t even think is the case and basically tells me to get a white noise machine to “retrain” my brain. there is no cure for tinnitus, what you have to do is feed yourself constant low level noise to try to condition your brain to get used to it so you will notice the tinnitus less. um, okay.
just attempting to talk about scheduling the mri with the office staff was an exercise in aggravation and i exited the office without scheduling anything. from the research that i’ve done, the audiology test and examination were enough information to rule out something major that an mri might find. i’m not willing to waste more of my time and spend more on copays so that a doctor can play cya. what i wanted was to get my money’s worth from the ent doctor in the first place.
after witnessing L’s intense healthcare experience during her bone marrow transplant, i understand now that if you have a disease that requires intensive interplay between doctors and treatments, you will likely get the most efficient version of healthcare in america – that’s not to say it’s easy, just that the providers have a better chance of being clustered together for better access and information sharing.
but if you are trying to move through the patchwork mess of a healthcare system for care that is important but not critical or life threatening, you’d better be prepared to put in a lot of work on your own and know when you should allow a provider to spend your money and when it’s time to pin them down and get service from them and not get passed off.
the part of the equation that the healthcare system doesn’t get is that their patients are paying customers. do you frequent businesses whose hours are inconvenient for you? you do with doctors. you probably wouldn’t burn through pto to go to the cleaners, but you have no choice with doctors because doctors only work 9 – 4 and not on saturdays. the cleaners are open on saturday.
if you were charged for an expensive test on your car “just because” you’d have plenty to say about that. if someone messed up your take-out order, you’d give them an earful, yet we are forced to put up with the lousy service, high cost and perfunctory care offered by our healthcare system.
this is not the fault of “obamacare”, this is a problem with a system that makes it so difficult to take your business elsewhere that you’re stuck with the same bad service. maybe our insurance companies should give us the option to consider our copay as a tip for service. better yet, you know how doctors and staff spend a great deal of their time applying codes so they can get paid for your visit? how about insurance companies create a payment code list for service, satisfaction and health concern treatment/resolution that the patient fills out?