Thursday, November 17, 2011

Healthcare, Patients, and Consumers

Over the last 6 days, I have been battling a health issue - something wrong with my kidney. I cannot help but realize how SLOWLY this process works. I have been in extreme pain, and it has had far reaching effects on my life and my family.

First, I went to the ER on Saturday. I was told to follow up with a urologist. I called my existing urologist and 8 others and couldn't be seen until Wednesday. I was having trouble keeping the pain in control and I was starting to really worry. Without another option, I went back to the ER where I was told again to see a urologist. At least Wednesday wasn't far away at that point. Shouldn't' it be easier to get an appointment for situations like this?

Then, I see the urologist who orders a nuclear renal scan.  When he spoke with the ER doc on Monday, couldn't we have set this up to have done BEFORE the office visit?

They hand me a prescription for the scan and recommend the hospital radiology department that is closest to my house. I call them and they say they can do it December 5th. REALLY? That is 19 days away.

I call another hospital that is farther than my house. She says they can do it a 6 days from now which is my 40th birthday and the day I fly to Tennessee. I beg to have it done that day. She says not possible. I offered to pay her $100 if she could get me an appointment that same day. It didn't work, but I did get an appointment the next day. Better but still a long time. When you add in the time for it to be read and the time for the doctor to then get the reading and the time for the doc to then call me, it is a really long process.  Couldn't we allow patients to pay extra to speed up this process similar to how I can pay an after hours fee for other services?

The bottom line is that I have been to the ER twice, a primary care doc once, a specialist once, had a CT scan, two ultrasounds, and a nuclear scan, and 6 days after I started having severe pain, i am not a single bit better off than I was when it began. Yes, I have pain medicine that makes me be able to tolerate it, but it puts me to sleep and I can't drive when I am taking it. The time that it takes to accomplish this continues to add to the bill as nobody is as concerned about making me well as I am. The rest just seem to pass me on to the next person without any responsibility of SOLVING the problem.

I have seen a lot of debates lately about whether we should call people patents or consumers in healthcare. At this point, I think patient is the only word that can be used - especially since you have to have a lot of patience to get anywhere. I have been thinking about Morgan's day of diagnosis when I found out that we couldn't get a specialist appointment for over 3 months. There simply has to be a better, faster, more efficient way, especially in severe situations.

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