Getting off on the wrong foot

Skärmavbild 2017-04-03 kl. 19.29.30.png“Louis, this feels like the beginning of a beautiful friendship” says Humphry Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca. I don’t recall what Louis had said or done to prompt Bogie’s remark, but it certainly wasn’t whatever happened to me today when my son’s new doctor’s office called.

Walking to the bus on my way home from work, my phone rang. Blocked caller ID, which for me means only one thing—health care. I answered despite walking on a dusty, busy highway with a nearly dead cell phone. “Hello, this is the XX office at YY hospital. Your son had an appointment today at 1pm. I’m calling to find out what happened.”

My mind started racing through the pile of mail on the kitchen counter. No, I would have remembered if we had been “summoned,” as I like to call it; in our new country, the overwhelming majority of health care follow-up and specialty appointments are scheduled by health care letter that lands without warning, sometimes with as few as three days notice of the appointment but usually about two weeks. The assumption must be that people are happy to take off work to go to these appointments, because the process of rescheduling them usually involves finding one’s way to a phone during a very limited “phone time” window, nearly always during business hours. Busy signals, call back queues–and most perplexingly, sometimes the only option is to cancel the appointment and then wait for another summons, hoping that the next appointed time spat out by the scheduling roulette is better. If not, see step 1.

But back to the dusty highway. Later searching of the kitchen counter pile confirmed that I had in fact never received notice in the mail, and I confidently said so. “So you’re saying you never got our letter? It was mailed out on March 14,” the nurse said curtly. Clearly, she didn’t believe me. “Well, I guess we’ll have to reschedule it,” she said. “I guess so,” I said, equally incredulously. What exactly was she hoping I would say? “No, let me fly counter-clockwise around the globe and reverse time?” She said she’d send a new time by mail, and I managed to get her to schedule the appointment right then, to avoid having to move heaven and earth at work at a later date. She curtly said she’d still send me the mail, and follow up with a text reminder. “Fine, do whatever you want.” I’m sure she could hear my eyes roll.

I’d hazard a guess that hundreds of thousands of health care visits were missed around the globe today because patients didn’t know they had one, didn’t understand why they needed to be there, or found the rescheduling process impossible. Or maybe because they hadn’t even had a chance to open the mail. Hundreds of thousands of hours of wasted clinic time. Irritation and suspicion all around, at the tender point in the relationship when we should be building trust and confidence. 

Patronizing finger-wagging and mistrust on her end.  Irritated petulance on mine. Is this the best way to start a beautiful friendship? I don’t think so. I wonder what Bogie would say to that.

 

 

 

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About Cristin L.

Earthling, pilgrim, peace warrior and special needs parent
This entry was posted in special needs parenting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Getting off on the wrong foot

  1. Diane Engelstad says:

    Very frustrating! Thankfully, we’re still doing phone appointments in our part of the world (Ontario, Canada). But I would say the system everywhere simply favours those who manage to move heaven and earth to meet appointments, without worrying about those who have trouble for any reason… I’m sure they build in the “missed” appointments, by overbooking.

  2. dvanleeu17 says:

    Woah, Cristin, disheartening. Seems like we’ve come a long some places and nowhere in others. Can I share this story with Patient Voices Institute? It’s a Grimm parable of very basic advocacy akin to when coal miners unionized. Doesn’t seem like one on one anything would work here. Keep the faith. This has deep tentacles. I’m here for you if you can think of anything you need that I could help with.

    • Cristin L. says:

      Just noticing that I’ve missed replying to quite a few responses — including this one. I love the way you frame what I say. Thanks for having a dialogue. I’ll try to be a better conversationalist.

  3. dvanleeu17 says:

    Reblogged this on Danny van Leeuwen and commented:
    A challenging story from my friend Cristin Lind. How would professional advocates approach this situation? Seems akin to coal miners unionizing. One-on-one wouldn’t work. It’s too entrenched.

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