Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Patient Relations To The Rescue! (Definitely Something To Be Thankful For)

Do people die from medical red tape?

When I was discharged from the hospital, I was told that I needed to make a follow-up appointment with my GI doc within two weeks of my discharge – my GI doc who I didn’t see while I was in the hospital – I mean this to say that if she had seen me, I’d feel better about taking an appointment at a later date.

I called to make the appointment and was told that my doctor couldn’t see me until February. February?!? It’s November. I can pretty much guarantee that if I don’t get seen until February, I will end up back in the hospital before then.

The person I talked to was not only unhelpful, but also just plain rude (can you say nurse on a power trip?). I wasn’t trying to buck the system. My discharge papers clearly say that I need a follow-up appointment within two weeks. The last time I was in the hospital, they made an appointment for me with my primary care doctor a day later.

My boyfriend gave me some tips for strong-arming them into giving me an appointment (or rather, the proper language to use). Although I’m not very good at this type of thing. Something about not biting the hand that feeds you… So I called again…

The person I talked to was definitely more helpful than the first. But the best they could do was an appointment a month from now with the PA that works with my GI doc.

Of course I took the appointment. I’d be a fool not to, especially considering that I am still in pain and my gut is not working properly.

I remember how shocked I was when I first got sick, and I was told I would have to wait from November until January to see my rheumatologist for the first time. At that point, when I had from nothing to cancer, I honestly wasn’t sure I would be alive that long to make it to that appointment. I’m dead serious here, no pun intended.

I don’t particularly like that the ER has become my first line of defense. But at this point, if that’s what I have to do to get someone to take my symptoms seriously, then that’s what I have to do.

Anyway, I’m usually a person who follows rules and goes through the proper channels, but not when they are so obviously at the expense of what little health I have left. My boyfriend suggested that before he stepped in, I should contact patient relations.

I didn’t even know such a thing existed, and their offices are hidden in the annals of the hospital. But they were actually able to get results, and in a much faster manner than I. The person dealing with my case said the following: 1) The appointment should have been made for me by the discharging unit, 2) He wasn’t sure why GI is giving me such a hard time about getting an appointment, and 3) That all clinics should have built-in slots for exactly this purpose.

I mean, come on, I’m not the first chronically ill person to be hospitalized, and I certainly won’t be the last.

So I got a call this morning that I can get in to see my GI doc in two weeks. I was told that I should be prepared to wait. Guess what? They could have given me a day and no time, and I’d go and sit there and wait the whole day if I had to.

Certainly part of this is piece of mind. I know there is something going on, and I want to get a clear picture of it. I don’t want to end up back in the hospital, and I want to make sure that this problem is dealt with more aggressively than it was before I was hospitalized.

It always frustrates me when I am unable to get results for myself and have to rely on someone else. But GI was just being ridiculous, and causing me quite a bit of stress, no less.

We’ve all had negative doctor/nurse experiences. I think it comes with the territory of being chronically ill.

If you feel that you have been disenfranchised or treated unfairly, you should see if such a resource is available. I’m not sure that such a mechanism exists in private practices, but I suspect they do exist in most university/teaching hospitals.

I guess there are competent, helpful people still left in the medical bureaucracy, which is definitely something to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!


  1. Hmmm, I'm glad to have that bit of information about patient relations - hope to never have to use it, but i've experienced similar situations. Anyway, hope your gut settles enough for you to enjoy your Thanksgiving. :)

  2. Wow -- I'm glad you were able to find that department! And mazel tov on having a boyfriend who was a)willing to step in for you and b)willing to give you some good advice that helped you take care of it yourself. I don't know anything else about him than what I've read here in your blog, but boy does he sound like a keeper. :-)

    (And oddly, it was a medical crisis that showed me that my then-boyfriend was a keeper, too, after I came home from vacation in Cabo San Lucas with E. coli. It was the first time I'd had someone in my life whom I preferred to be around at my sickest rather than being alone. And E. coli can be pretty embarrassing to have when you're sharing a bathroom with someone else.)

    I'm glad you got the help you needed from patient relations, and I will be sure to keep that in mind if I ever run into a similar problem.

    Happy Thanksgiving! And fwiw, you're one of the people I'm thankful for --- thank you for taking over PFAM and continuing to organize it!! I know that there's times it's got to be just one more thing on your long list, but it's a great blog carnival that Duncan invented and I'm so grateful that it didn't simply disappear when he was unable to keep it up. Thank you!!!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving, Jessica and Aviva.

    And Aviva, my BF is definitely a keeper! I am thankful for you and all my readers, and those who take part and host PFAM. I wouldn't be able to do it without you!

  4. Just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. As someone also in her 20's struggling with a chronic illness it's always a comfort to hear other people my age are going through similar experiences. I can really relate to everything I've read so far. Thanks for sharing.