Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job

April 16th, 2015

Categories: Medical Administration, Medical Care, Sloppy

Health admin staff 1

A friend, asked: “Have you done any posts about the outrageously discourteous way patients are sometimes treated by admin staff at doctors’ offices?”

I probably have, but neither recently nor covering any of these instances so I kept on reading as I trust you also will. I wish that her experiences were the exception. I fear that too many of us have similar ones to share.

She continued:  

health admin staff 2“I often wonder if these people are lazy, stupid, incompetent, or all three. Earlier today I brought Mom to a long-ago-scheduled appointment with an ophthalmologist. I called 30 minutes before the appointment to ask if the doctor was running on time with his appointments. I was told that he was. Mom and I arrived 10 minutes early, told the receptionist that we were there, then signed in on the clipboard. We spent the next 30 minutes watching patients who arrived after us get called in to see the doctor before us. When I checked the list we’d signed I found that four patients had signed in after Mom. When Mom asked the admin for an explanation, she was told there had been an emergency with a patient. That explanation may fly in a cardiologist’s office but I’m not buying it from an ophthalmologist.

“Although I wanted to walk out, we stayed so Mom could have her procedure. After it was complete and there was no longer a chance of alienating the doctor, I told him in so many words that his staff stinks. It’s unlikely we’ll go back. This won’t be the first time Mom or I have left a doctor’s practice, not because of an inadequacy on the physician’s part but because of incompetent staff.

Prescription“In another annoying medical-related incident, we learned that the results of Mom’s blood test, which had been performed March 25, still had not arrived at her cardiologist’s office as of March 30. We called the lab and learned that lab personnel had faxed the results to the wrong number. The transmission failed, of course, but apparently it didn’t occur to anyone at the lab to check the number on the test prescription or to call the doctor’s office and confirm it. Instead they did nothing whatsoever.

“Last week I received a bill for $240 for a simple procedure I’d had done in a dermatologist’s office. It was my first appointment with this doctor. I have a very pricey insurance policy that, in the past, always has covered this type of procedure 100 percent, so you can imagine my surprise at receiving this bill. Upon closer inspection I found a line that said: “No insurance information is on file at this doctor’s office.” Really? Was it my imagination that I spent 15 minutes filling out paperwork before the doctor saw me? Was I hallucinating when I handed the admin my insurance photocopiercard and saw her copy it on the photocopier?

“I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to a lot of things but this lack of courtesy and common sense by admins in medical facilities makes me absolutely crazy. I’m sure I’m not alone.”

My friend asks for strategies on how you navigate through the oceans of incompetency in this industry. I’d like to know if you’ve experienced similar inexplicable glitches, if there seem to be more nowadays or, on the other hand, if the doctors you see are backed by teams of efficient, smart administrators?

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9 Responses to “Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job”

  1. J. McCarthy Said:

    I have great sympathy for the medical profession. It is in-between a rock and a hard place — the utterly impractical, but well-intentioned (except for the lawyers representing the insurance industry), idealistic Hippocratic oath driven egalitarian mess called Obamacare versus the combination of ever more complicated and expensive medicine and an elderly population which is staying alive far too long.


    1) Do what a specialist with a national reputation told me to do. “If you want to get a good doctor, get an old doctor.” Old doctors tend to have competent staffs.

    2) Make friends with your doctor’s nurse. She can grease the wheels for you.

    3) If you can afford it, go to doctors who don’t accept insurance. There is a world of difference in how you are treated.

    4) Don’t get sick.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    J. McCarthy,

    I wish your tip No. 4 to you and all the readers of this blog, their families and friends.

    I also hope that they can afford to pay for any doctor they care to go to and access the best care money can buy.

    I imagine that working at some doctor’s offices is like working as a short order cook in midtown Manhattan at 12:30: Everyone wants everything NOW and hurry up about it. “And I said I wanted mustard, not mayo on that–no pickle, yes tomato, no lettuce on lightly toasted rye.” Some people are challenged by juggling and others crushed by it.

    I was in a venerable NYC hospital with my husband who needed to have a test. He was signed in by a friendly woman sitting in front of a computer at a desk. The place was gorgeous. Beautiful architecture, stunning fixtures and furniture, lovely upholstery, view of the East River…and nobody there. The test took well over an hour and I waited in the room adjacent to this woman. He was the only customer she had in that entire time and countless other desks with computers were without staff. So not everyone is overwhelmed that’s for sure. Were there only a way to spread out the work.

  3. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: We’ve shared these experiences–and frustrations–and the only answer is to vote with your feet. I hate to keep changing doctors, but this kind of stuff makes me crazy; I simply cannot and will not tolerate it.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    My mother lived to a ripe old age and like you, Donna, she didn’t tolerate such abuse either. Some decided that because she didn’t work her time was worthless and she could wait for hours in a waiting room. Unless there was an emergency, a doctor who abused his/her schedule soon saw her walk out the door. Acupuncture was her salvation. She didn’t tolerate it when her acupuncturist ignored her appointment either– she’d go somewhere else.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Never mind the staff, how about the eye surgeon who tells a total stranger/prospective patient, that he/she is in need of psychiatric help? Yup! Don’t worry folks, the irritated one has gone on to inform and horrify just about everyone in sight of the experience, and has a highly recommended replacement in his/her sights.

    Sad part is that the meet and greets, nurses and etc., couldn’t have been more supportive. One thing is for certain: No one in their right mind is going to place eyes (or anything else) in the hands of such a person, regardless of abilities.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That eye surgeon would be like a dentist volunteering that a patient would look so much better if she had her wrinkles removed or the size of her breasts reduced! It’s not funny –more of a head-slapper. Imagine how awful it would be to work in this doctor’s office.

  7. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna on Facebook: Good for her!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    She was amazing [say I, modestly]. One of the people who was caring for her at home in her last days tried to threaten her by saying if mom didn’t do something or other, she wouldn’t come to work. My mother was helpless without care…but she fired the woman on the spot, told her not to return and got herself another person to do weekend duty.

  9. Judy Schuster Said:

    I’m sure all of this is true on the East Coast, but it’s not true here in the Twin Cities. I rarely wait more than 15 minutes for a doctor, and when I do wait, an apology is always forthcoming. Maybe this is why our health care is rated so highly. I’m sure there are exceptions, but overall, my personal interaction with the medical profession has been very positive.
    Recently, I was in a hospital emergency room, and while I did wait a bit to get seen the first time, after that tests that I needed were ordered, and the doctors or the friendly nursing staff kept me informed about the results. There was only one exception to this and that was a resident. After I told the nurses and other doctors she was rude and dismissing of my concerns. I never saw her again, so I’m sure my complaints were heard. Someone made sure she never interacted with me again.

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