Medical Saga

September 20, 2007

I have been in and out of hospitals for years because of my Crohn’s Disease. Therefore, I’ve been through all the good and bad stories that anyone who frequents a doctor’s office can imagine.

From the seamless appointment that only takes 14 minutes and requires no annoying or embarrassing tests to the incredibly idiotic and sometimes dangerous events that occur at medical facilities.

For instance, in 1999 I was having a little distress in my abdomen and was rushed to the hospital so the doctor could look and see what the issue was. During or immediately after the procedure, my intestines decided to shred themselves and I found myself being rushed into emergency surgery.

I spent some quality time in the hospital enjoying morphine and the free food.

Most times this type of thing doesn’t happen and it’s the customer service glitches that really get to you.

Take Tuesday as an example of both ends of the spectrum.


The doctor I saw in the morning had an empty waiting room for the first time in about 16 years of me seeing him. The only other occasions that begin with a room devoid of patients is when he schedules me for a 7:30AM appointment.

So the entire experience was crazy.

I walked up to the desk and spoke with the receptionist. She asked for my blue hospital card and I searched for it in my wallet and in my man purse. Nothing.

Now, this would have been the first step on a stairway to the depths of despair. Not so.

She said, “No problem. I’ll just make one up for you.”

In fifteen seconds I had a new blue card and was all signed in.

The clinician took me down the hall almost immediately. She weighed and measured me and took my BP and pulse. Then I was ushered to a room where I sat four about eight minutes before the doctor arrived.

We talked, he prodded, we talked, then he said to get dressed and come to his office. I did so and that was that. New appointment in four months. So standard tests scheduled for a few months from now. Easy as falling off a lawn chair after drinking nine gin and tonics.

The afternoon appointment – from which I’m started this blog entry – was far different.

Check in. Wait.

Fill out forms. Wait.

Get called to go down the hall for weighing and measuring. Then back to the waiting room to…you guessed it, wait.

Get called again, the clinician forgot to take my pulse (good work!). Then wait.

Get taken to a room and get told the Dr. would be with me in 10 minutes or so. Why wouldn’t I just keep waiting where I already had some time invested and where in a few more moments I could claim squatter’s rights to a chair, an outlets and some magazines?

From that point, the appointment was perfect. The doctor was outstanding, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. She figured out a few things and in short order we had planned out a course of action for getting me some vitamin D (mostly I have to go to Florida repeatedly all winter to suck the vitamin D from the sun).

But the ludicrous part of this second appointment was that it wasn’t really necessary. But because of a snafu at the desk, multiple doctors who decided to birth offspring and move to Cleveland, and backed up schedules, this appointment took me 18 months to get.

No matter what I told the reception people and no matter how much urgency I exhibited, they couldn’t get me in the office any sooner. And the one time I showed up in May for an appointment, the guy at the desk (he’s no longer there BTW) told me that I didn’t have an appointment that day and the next available one was on Sept. 18.

My note to the office manager will be laced with stronger language as will my letter to the hospital board of directors. But I hope your visits to hospitals and Dr.’s offices go as smoothly as example number one.

If not, write a note or make a phone call, tell your insurance provider (really) or switch offices. Too few people realize that they are buying a service/product from a business when they go to the doctor.  Treat that visit the same way as you would a fine restaurant. Seriously.

Because if the person poking and prodding you isn’t at least as competent as someone carrying plates to your table, then you might be buying your healthcare from the Jack-in-the-Box equivalent of medical professional.

More to come…