The Business of Medicine

It never ceases to amaze me that medical businesses are not run like a business.  Every business cross-trains employees so that if somebody is on vacation or out sick, the critical elements of that person’s job are performed.  Apparently that isn’t true in medicine.

My GI referred me to Virginia Mason for a lithotripsy and ERCP.  I could have the ERCP locally, but I’m told there’s no point since it needs to happen after the lithotripsy anyway.  I have to go to Seattle for this one.

I waited a week, then called the GI back:

Didn’t you say they were going to call me to schedule an appointment?

Yes.  They will call you.

Any idea when?  I had hoped this would be done by now.

Let’s see, I sent that on the… oh, my!  You should have heard back by now.  I’ll call them and make sure they got our fax.

Thank you.  Do you think I could get their phone number, too, and call them myself?

A call to the place I was referred got me the run around, but eventually someone told me that the person who handles referrals was out of the office for a week and a half, so it’s taking a while to get through all the referrals that accumulated while she was gone.  No, they would not schedule an appointment for me until their doctor said so.  The doctor did have my information, and they’d call me in 1-3 days.

Three days came and went.  A week later I called the GI office back and left a message asking if they could light a fire under Virginia Mason.  This isn’t a plea to fit me in sooner.  Just call me and schedule an appointment!

A few days later, GI called me back and said that Virginia Mason says they’re still working on it.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  My nine year old knows how to dial the telephone, talk to the person on the other end of the line, then write something on the calendar.  What is the problem here?

Imagine if your furnace quit working and the repairman said that he couldn’t schedule a repairman, but he’d get back to you in a week or two to arrange a good time for someone to take a look at the problem.  What if it was 20 degrees out, the faucets in your house stopped working, and there was a stream of water running out from beneath the house?  Would you do business with a company who wouldn’t return your phone calls or send someone to investigate the problem, or would you call around until you located somebody who wanted the job?

I asked GI to please find someone who actually wants my business.  Monday I will be on the phone looking myself, even if that means finding a different GI in a different city in order to get a referral to someone who will actually make appointments and see patients instead of sitting on their pile of faxes.  There must be somewhere else that this procedure can be done:  UWMC, OHSU


5 thoughts on “The Business of Medicine

  1. Sounds like there is some major internal upheaval possibly going on in the practice, with the staff, and/or even more likely amongst the docs. I have some extremely vague memories of such an instance years ago regarding a lithotripsy practice case. Yes, I’d find another place if I were you.

  2. You noticed the smoke, huh? 🙂 Given that this blog is almost 3 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever named names…

    After spending the morning on the phone, I’ve learned that there are doctors in Vancouver, Olympia, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Puyallup, and Everett that can get me in for a consultation this week, and after that can do what it takes to make this happen as soon as possible. BUT they all need a referral. I called my family physician’s office to explain that the GI he referred me to sent a referral to Seattle three weeks ago and they still won’t even schedule an appointment – and when they schedule an appointment, it will be 4-6 weeks until they can do the procedure. My doctor’s receptionist gasped. Really. I heard her. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who finds this totally unacceptable. She asked, “What’s taking them so long?” yeah, that’s my question, too. I asked if it’s possible to get a referral to one of these other GI’s, and if she needed to schedule an appointment for me to be seen so they can get paid for the work of writing the referral. She said that given all I’ve been through, they’ll just transfer the referral to somewhere else and I don’t need to go in (yay!) It’ll take all day today, but tomorrow I can make an appointment for later in the week. With any luck, this new doctor will speed the process along. Unless, of course, Virginia Mason calls back with an appointment for me to have this taken care of before Thanksgiving.

  3. Pingback: Referrals: It’s the Money « ∞ itis

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