Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Medical Madness

Short version: I went to set up an appointment with doctor regarding my back problems, but, after waiting about a half-hour, I was told that, not only wouldn't he see me then, he was never going to do so, again. Why? Because I hadn't been there in a couple of years. Later, they gave me my medical records (at my request) without ever verifying my identity or having me sign for them.

The lack of professionalism and discretion in this industry astounds me.
Long version: I've been experiencing back problems for the past month or more, so I finally agreed to go see my primary care physician. Most people I've spoken with on the subject, including some medical professionals, seem convinced that a muscle relaxant would do the trick. So, when I walked into my doctor's office, a quick consultation for a written prescription was all I was looking for. I didn't expect them to be able to fit me in that day, but I could at least set up an appointment.

Sadly, things didn't start off so well, as the person behind the counter was lacking in communication skills:

At one point, she asked, "What's your doctor's name?"
With some embarrassment, I responded, "Y'know, it's been so long I don't remember, but it's the guy who's name is on the building."

"He hasn't been here since 2004," she said.
I was a bit surprised by this, but I figured they must have other physicians on-staff for her to have asked me which one was my doctor. I was cool with seeing one of them, instead.

Later, I referred to her earlier statement about Dr. W having left the facility in 2004. She said, "I never said that he left this facility. I said that you haven't been here since 2004."

I think what happened earlier was that she was telling her co-worker that I hadn't been there since 2004. However, she never turned toward that person so I naturally assumed that "he" referred to the last person either of us had mentioned - namely, Dr. W.

Anyway, we got past that and she told me to sign in and someone would call my name. I did. About 20-30 minutes later, they called my name and told me that Dr. W's not accepting new patients and since I hadn't been there in so long, he's not going to treat me. Period.

Basically, he was dumping me.

Now, there are a lot of things I don't know or understand about the medical field or medical insurance, but this sure seemed strange, to me. Still, I decided to cut my losses and move along.

The young lady behind the counter went on to say that he could provide me with a referral to see another physician, but I turned that down. As far as I'm concerned, a referral is just him telling me about his buddy down the street that he wants to hook up with some business. Since I've also noticed that physicians (and their staff) don't bother to check whether they're referring you to someone who accepts your insurance, often resulting in wasted time and confusion, I saw no reason to accept the referral.

After politely declining her offer, I asked, "What I would have to do to get my medical records?"
She yelled to her co-worker, "He wants his records!"

I corrected her, saying, "No. I just want to know what's involved in the process so I can decide what to do, right now."
She responded, "Yeah. She does that, though, that's why I told her."

She completely missed the fact that I was asking for information, not action.

So, I waited on the co-worker to respond to me. Instead, she walked to the rear of the office, out-of-sight, and stayed away for close to five minutes. When she returned and still hadn't come over to me, I got her attention saying, "Hi. I'm not asking for my records, right now. I just want to know what's involved in getting them."

She said, "Oh. You don't want them?"
"Well, I might choose to get them, but first I want to know what's involved." If I had to fill out a ton of paperwork and wait on them to do a bunch of stuff, I'd just wait to do it another day. I'd already been away from work longer than I planned, without having been treated.

She told me that I don't have that much information in my file, so she'd just copy a few pages and hand them to me. And that's just what she did.

Within five minutes or so, she handed me an envelope with all my medical records. While that is what I wanted, here's the thing:


I could've been Shifty McShady up in there and they just handed my original records over to some guy who claimed to be west3man. You get me?

If I walked over there, this evening, while different people were on-staff, and asked for my original medical records, they couldn't produce them and they couldn't prove who they'd given them to.

Maybe I'm better-off being free of such an establishment, but I doubt their lack of professionalism and discretion was so unique. I'm disheartened by the fact that I didn't receive the prescription I needed and by the fact that I was unceremoniously disposed of like so much medical waste.

I drove around, some more, trying to find physicians that had love for my sorry-ass medical coverage (the fees are fine, but there are too few participating providers). Ultimately, I had no success and temporarily settled for a quick consultation with a pharmacist at the Publix grocery store near my job. I grabbed some over-the-counter stuff and hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, my back is so messed-up that, when we went to check on my girlfriend's hospitalized father, the family and staff spent an appreciated, but inordinate amount of time looking after me!

I look forward to leaving this job and hooking up with better insurance coverage, but I'm not too optimistic about the quality of service that I (or any of us) are likely to get.


chele said...

I've told you that mechanics are the devil, right? Well, doctors are also the devil.

I had so much trouble with my former PCP that I unceremoniously dumped her. Her waiting room was always packed and the wait was never less than an hour. She would set up referrals without telling the people why I was coming. She never sent x-rays or background information. I hated that heffa.

The Dr. I have now is a little better but not much. She only works 4 days a week from 8-12. She also suggests all kinds of this and that without checking to see if my insurance covers it. Now she's trying to get me back in there for an unncessary follow up that she knows isn't covered. Heffa.

West said...

Hm. You just might have something with that hustle thing.

A lot of that certainly sounds familiar.

I used to go to this supposed ENT who, whenever I called with a question about something he'd already told me or some medicine he recommended, would tell me to come in for an appointment instead of just having his staff call me with the answer.

It's a whole 'nutha kinda hustle.

Clarence said...

DAG, that is MESSED UP, bruh! I mean, forreal. I had a messed up experience myself just last year before my surgery. What da dew with these cats? I'd have better luck with the fry guy at McDonalds! Hope you get your strength up and your back straight soon, bruh.

Miz JJ said...

Another reason I am glad that I live in Canada. That sounds so messed up. I will use this story as another example of the evils of privatization.

Angie said...

Okay West, as I've said before, I am all about service. With that said I hate it when I get funky service, especially at the doctors office. You expect them of all people to be professional. You handled it well. I think I would have an assult and battery charge along with a back ache at this point. :(

YouToldHarpoTaBeatMe said...

I'm still trippin' off the broad who had her nasty bare feet in her chair, behind the counter (my most recent experience) so naturally I feel your pain, with the professionalism. From the tone of this blog, they seemed like you (the PATIENT) were wasting their time.

In the military, it's hard to have one permanent doctor, because they deploy just like we do. The plus side is that before you can even request an appt, they want you to tell them your SSN, address, phone number, your blood type, ya momma's blood type, the dog's name, and your 2nd grade teacher's name.

Overkill, but it beats the hell out of some woman claiming to be me, asking for DNA testing on her kids and needing a prescription for oozing sore gel or something.

B. Good said...

"Quality service" at a doctor's office? I've yet to see it. Its always the same broad thats mad because she didn't get her days off, but the new girl did. And all of a sudden, that becomes YOUR problem, and all you wanna do is schedule an appointment.

Thats really scary that they just gave up your records like that. I had to jump through hoops of fire while avoiding a lion, a tiger, and a bear before I could get mine. I was PISSED, but now I'm more than thankful.

Woo woo woo, and I hope you get some better insurance coverage soon! In the meantime, IcyHot and BenGay might be your new friends. Back pain is NO JOKE!

Liz said...

Hmm...you could threaten to sue.

911 said...

*Looks around* what's insurance.

Keith said...

You should file a complaint with your state's or city's health department. What they did was illegal (HIPAA laws exist so this kind of thing does not happen) and disrespectful.

That said, West why the heck have you not seen a doctor in three years? This is a big peeve of mine especially when it comes to black men. You should go every year no matter how good you feel. Black men are more likely to die from just about everything than just about everybody mainly because they don't do enough preventive stuff. And you have insurance so there is no excuse. West, from the bottom of my heart I want you, and good guys like you, to take care of yourselves. All doctors are not created equal but I am confident that you can find a good one near where you live.

Sorry for the drama. I hope you feel better soon, back pain sucks sweet and salty [fill in the blank].

West said...

I'll check out the HIPAA angle, Keith. Thanks.

By the way, I hadn't been to that doctor in just over two years, (she saw 2004 and ignored the fact that 2007 just started) but I've been to other physicians for other issues.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Keith said...

Two years isn't bad. :-) Now you should really file a complaint!

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