When I set out to get routine health check-ups and screenings this year, I expected the process to be tedious, time-consuming, even baffling at times.
Although I’m practiced in the art of Managing My Own Health, I figured that things would be a bit more complicated this time around.
The reason was that early in 2010 my BF and I had moved across the country from Seattle to southern Maryland. While I have the same health insurance, I had to find a new general-care doctor and specialists and facilities for screening tests. And the screening had to be by Preferred Providers in my health insurance, so it would be less expensive or even free.
I needed a plan
Clearly, I had to get organized. First, I’d have to sort out what health-care I needed. Before seeing my doctor for a routine physical in December, I figured that I should talk to him about three things:
*** what vaccines do I need?
*** what screening tests—such as a mammogram—do I need and how often do I need them, and
*** various other health questions, such as why was I suddenly having pain in the thumb on my right hand.
All went well at the doctor’s office. I asked my questions and got answers. I felt good, so prepared, so well organized
Obstacles to getting a simple shot
But in short order I started to encounter obstacles and set-backs, wasted time and energy (mostly my own). One of the first problems was getting what I called a Simple Shingles Shot. What a misnomer that turned out to be. There was nothing simple about it as I later described in excruciating detail.
Planning for a mundane mammogram
There’s been quite a bit of discussion over the past several years about when women should start getting mammograms, how often they should get them, and when they no longer need them. My doctor suggested that I should have one every year.
So a mammogram was the first screening test I scheduled. An administrative assistant (AA) at my doctor’s office—let’s call her Maureen—said I could get one at St. Mary’s Hospital. I called and made an appointment.
I called the facility in Seattle where I’d had the last mammogram a little over a year ago to ask that they send the images to St. Mary’s, and I checked before my appointment to make sure that the hospital had received the images. Which they had. Hey, this was looking easy, maybe just a little too easy.
7 things that went wrong when I showed up for a mammogram
*** A receptionist at St. Mary’s Hospital asked me for a copy of the signed referral slip from my doctor.
*** I didn’t have one, since no one—not my doctor or his AA or anyone at the hospital—had told me that I needed one.
*** The receptionist called my doctor’s office. It wasn’t open yet, so I waited and waited and ….
*** Finally, the receptionist reached my doctor’s office, but he wasn’t in.
*** Maureen was in, but she wouldn’t OK the mammogram. She claimed that there was nothing in my file to show that my doctor and I had discussed my getting a mammogram. (The receptionist at the hospital said that a doctor’s office will usually OK a mammogram.)
*** I drove straight to my doctor’s office to talk to Maureen. She got out my file, rifled through it, and found the part about my doctor and me talking about my getting a mammogram. Had she even looked at it when the hospital called?
*** I said that no one had told me that I needed a referral slip and that I’d driven all the way to St. Mary’s Hospital for nothing. Maureen was unapologetic.
There are only two AA’s in the office, she said. She hinted that they were far too busy to be looking at a patient’s file before answering questions about what was or wasn’t in it.
Huh? Isn’t it part of her job to answer questions from hospitals about a scheduled medical procedure for a patient?
3 things that went right
*** My doctor’s AA gave me a referral slip with my doctor’s signature so that I could get a mammogram at St. Mary’s Hospital.
*** I called the hospital and re-scheduled.
*** I went to Starbucks and got a tall Americano-with-room and a raspberry scone.
Getting health-care shouldn’t be this difficult, should it? I can’t be the only one having these problems, can I? I’d love to have you share your experience. Rant, if you need to. I’ll understand.
photo by lori_greig