The Last Straw?

I had a doctor’s appointment today. While I was there, I saw:

  • a nurse (weighed me and took my blood pressure),
  • a trainee doctor (checked on my current symptoms, listened to my heart and lungs, prodded my neck to see how my thyroid felt),
  • my endocrinologist (checked my last blood work results, talked about target levels for my TSH, etc.), and
  • a lab tech (drew blood for a new round of tests).

All of this is routine; it happens every six months. It takes 20 minutes.

Note the clock: It says "Hey! Your appointment was an hour ago and you still haven't seen a doctor!"
Note the clock: It says "Hey! Your appointment was an hour ago and you still haven't seen a doctor!"

And yet, I was at Washington Hospital Center – where my doctor’s office is located – for two hours and 10 minutes. Once travel time was added in, I missed four hours of work.

FOUR HOURS. For a 20 minute appointment.

To be honest, I spent most of the time with my doctor talking about my frustrations with the office systems – and hers. (The trainee doc clearly told her that I’d mentioned that my heart rate was high because I was stressed from waiting so long.) The long gap between check-in and being called back? Two computer systems that communicate badly, and slowly. The billing issues I always have (being billed repeatedly for the co-pay I make on site)? Ineptitude and coding errors. Having to change my phone number in multiple places? The charting software used by the doctors doesn’t talk to the patient record system.

My doctor clearly cares about these issues – not only did she listen to me and fill in some of the gaps in my information, she also took the time to explain to the trainee doc how stress from WHC’s systemic issues can be detrimental to patients. She also mentioned working on a team to help work on some of these problems. It’s good to know she “gets it” and is trying to help fix things. I also like her, and think she’s doing a good job.

Yet every time I have this very routine, non-invasive follow-up appointment, I have measurable high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, and I leave with a headache the size of Montana. In other words: I come in well and leave sick. Every time. Granted, it passes. But still… What if I were like the folks I see in the waiting room, the ones who look like they’re starting out sick? I can only imagine how wretched they feel after a half-day going through the medical wringer.

I’m fortunate enough to have decent insurance, so I have the option to find a new endocrinologist – one with an office system that’s not trying to kill me. And yet, I don’t want to fire a doctor I like just because everything around her is chaos. Maybe next time I’ll just take the whole day off from work and bring snacks so I can just chill out and roll with the delays. Attitude adjustment must be easier than getting a new doctor, right?

Right?

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11 thoughts on “The Last Straw?

  1. sprite September 15, 2011 / 11:43 pm

    I sympathize. I once read an entire book while waiting for a doctor to give me biopsy results. I began to think they’d forgotten about me. I kept saying to myself, “Well, you clearly don’t have breast cancer because otherwise they would have come in right away.” At least, I hope that’s true. (That they come in sooner if you’re sick, that is. I don’t have breast cancer.)

    • Sarah September 16, 2011 / 12:27 am

      Seriously? That’s just cruel.

  2. Common Loon September 15, 2011 / 11:45 pm

    Been playing that EXACT game with our pediatrician…oh the stories we could swap! This has gone on for 2 years. The final straw came 2 days ago (spent a chunk of Tuesday getting recommendations for a new doctor and in process of seeing who will accept new patients). I offer this only to say that it will be very obvious when you need to move on. I still love this pediatrician – enough that I put up with a couple years of crap – but there has got to be at least one other doctor in this vicinity that can provide similar care!!!

    • Sarah September 16, 2011 / 12:30 am

      Ugh. I can’t even imagine how awful a long wait at the doctor’s is w/ 3 kids.

      And honestly, if the doctor hadn’t been so candid about the problems today, it would’ve been that day I just “knew.”

  3. Maggie September 15, 2011 / 11:59 pm

    Oh, that’s bad. For what it’s worth, my endocrinologist at GW Medical Faculty Associates takes a while to schedule with, but I’m literally in and out in 30 minutes. High five funky thyroids! (sigh)

    • Sarah September 16, 2011 / 12:26 am

      Good to know… GW is my plan if I decide to switch. Seems like most ppl I know who go there like it, irrespective of specialty. I may hit you up for your doctor’s name at some point.

  4. Mom September 16, 2011 / 6:51 am

    Doctor’s Office Blood Pressure. They even have a name for the “disease”. They know they give it !!! Most of the time (pun intended), the wait is shorter in lil ole Bing. One would think it would be better in larger care centers with more technology! Guess not. Sigh…..

  5. Common Loon September 16, 2011 / 9:50 am

    Sarah, after the fiasco in August, I had 4 personal phone calls from office personnel, managers, and my doctor apologizing for our experience. My doctor even gave her personal number for use anytime. All acknowledged the multitude of problems. They had an office-wide meeting to address some of the problems. So I stuck with them yet again…and then the last-second cancellation of an appointment I’ve had for months (plus the hassle to even schedule it), and the gymnastics I’ve performed to honor that appointment, well, I’m just done.

  6. Mary Billingsley September 16, 2011 / 11:25 am

    Think of going to the doctor like going to the DMV. Pack a suitcase with your snacks, books, magazines, music and any thing else to keep you entertained. If you pull out a sleeping bag and take a nap they might figure out you’ve been in the waiting room for a long, long time!

  7. Joanne September 16, 2011 / 8:47 pm

    How many times have I told you to check if Dr. Sklar is in your network???

    • Sarah September 16, 2011 / 9:27 pm

      Just as many times as I’ve told you he’s not. 😉

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