Service of Medical Care Going the Extra Mile

April 30th, 2015

Categories: Customer Care, Customer Service, Medical Care, Medicine

Extra mile

J. McCarthy, who posted a comment on my recent post, “Service of Little If Any Assistance: Physician Admin Staffs Fall Down on the Job,” followed up a few days ago with another relevant comment describing medical care that he had just received from several doctors and their staffs.  It warranted a post of its own, not just to present a fresh perspective on medical care, but also because the woman who wrote the previous post made the most distressing point about how horribly she had been treated by several of her doctors and their administrative staffs.

He wrote:

I’m referring to my previous advice, “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.” The following story about what led up to the unsolicited, unexpected phone call my ophthalmologist’s most solicitous, crack, long-time nurse just made to me, might be of interest to your readers.

happy patient 3On a visit for my routine annual eye checkup, I told the ophthalmologist about something strange that had happened recently with one of my eyes. He took it seriously and gave me an even more extensive examination than usual. After it, he told me that there was nothing wrong with my eyes, but that he suspected I might have a circulation problem. He asked me if I still was seeing my longtime cardiologist who coincidentally is his patient as well. I said yes, and he picked up the telephone and called him.

Three days later, I was in the cardiologist’s office. We go back 30 years, and even though he practically has my heart memorized by now, he thoroughly examined me. (He took my blood himself as he always does.) Next, he had his nurse, who has been with him since he opened his practice, hook me up to a bunch of machines and do a series of heart tests. I’ve known her as long as him, and trust her absolutely.

Happy patient 4The next day, the doctor called to tell me that the tests had turned up nothing new and that, as far as he could tell, I did not have a circulation problem. Then, he gave me two choices: Either I could see more specialists and take more tests to double check, or I could do nothing and see what happened. I chose to do nothing. My doctor agreed and said that he would follow up with our ophthalmologist. I was satisfied and thought that was the end of it, but it was not.

Nurse on phone 1What did theophthalmologist’s nurse call me about? Her boss wanted me to know that he fully concurred with thecardiologist’s and my decision. That was a call  that did not have to be made. It was going the “extra mile.”

Incidentally, both doctors accept insurance and are all well over 65. Their nurses both have been with them at least 20 years.

Have you heard of doctors who collaborate with each other and their nurses in this way? Or is medicine more like Washington where the executive and legislative branches clash, and our senators and congressmen and women don’t cooperate with each other? Do you have examples of medical admins in today’s “rush-rush” climate who make your day rather than ruin it?

Great communication

 

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10 Responses to “Service of Medical Care Going the Extra Mile”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    I have one doctor who compulsively responds to emails. He’s given me advice and referrals—but he’s the only one. Other doctors insist that they haven’t received my faxes or emails (blaming their “secretaries”) and can rarely find the letters I’ve sent via snail mail. Generally, when I’m with a physician, I know I have that person’s attention for, like, 20 minutes. After that, generally, I’m simply out of range.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Merv,

    You are lucky: 20 minutes is more than most get! Because I suffer from white coat syndrome I arrive with a list so I don’t forget to ask the most important question as I can’t wait to leave before I hear bad news!

    A fax helped me to get an appointment for my husband with a specialist I was told probably wouldn’t see him as his patient list was already far too long. The referring physician had given my husband a prescription which noted the reason for the consultation. [This doctor didn’t know the specialist well and wasn’t going to call him for this.] I pasted the Rx on a typed note with a few words of explanation and when I followed up, the admin said she would show it to the doctor. I called again and the specialist took my call. After a brief conversation he agreed to meet my husband who is now one of his patients. I am convinced the succinct note w/Rx saved the day.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    So this means that we don’t give the younger generation a chance, and when they hit 65 they will be incompetent through lack of practice? Something is wrong with this picture.

    What should be addressed is the proliferation of needless tests, which was discussed by a disgruntled doctor in a recent Science Times.

    This followed by the parade of scary pills endlessly promoted on TV. I could go on……

  4. Judy Schuster Said:

    JUDY JUST WROTE THIS TO RESPOND TO THE EARLIER POST WHERE THE COMMENT ALSO IS. I COPIED IT HERE SO IT WOULD GET A LARGER VIEWING.

    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.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    With the insurance system currently in place, time is the enemy of both young and old doctors. The older doctors tend to have experienced staff while the younger ones may not have the time to train their staff.

    I had never before broken a bone so maybe the process I went through is standard for that kind of thing but I saw the person who took my X-rays and the receptionist who made my next appointment for a longer time than I saw the [young] doctor. Thank goodness there were no complications. I’d have been up a creek until my next appointment. I suspect that this was not the place to go with a broken bone if you had chronic diseases like diabetes that might be affected or reasons for the doctor to speak with others as in the instance described in this post. This doctor wasn’t set up to have the time.

    As for the future of medicine, because of the insurance system and the expense of going to medical school, I suspect that those who become doctors today are under such financial pressures that making money to pay for med school must come before anything else for many years. It’s a mess. The only ones making money are the insurance and drug companies.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Judy,

    You are so fortunate! Wish we could commute to the Twin Cities for our medical care. Actually, we have friends who go to the Mayo Clinic once a year for head to toe checkups from Ireland!!

    Good for the doctors to keep the snippy resident away from you. The fact that she was no doubt exhausted is no excuse for being rude. If someone is sick enough to be in the emergency room, they are not feeling their best–are literally thin-skinned–and those around should treat them with velvet gloves.

    I trust you are better now.

  7. P.L. Barr Said:

    I’ve had a similar experience to McCarthy’s. Some years back, I was hospitalized for two weeks because of a severe attack of a normally routine, but incurable chronic disease.

    When this happened, the decent, caring specialist I was seeing insisted I go to see what he called his “Guru,” a doctor with a national reputation in the field. The latter has been taking care of me ever since. It is a tricky business, especially when it comes to talking my insurance companies into paying for the various expensive medications that I must take. The “Guru” has the clout to do this. Sadly, also, my quarterly visits to see him are not routine since the disease mutates. Fortunately, he has the ability to spot subtle differences from visit to visit. Yet, despite their intensity, insurance only pays him $130.00 a session.

    Last year the “Guru” became severely ill and could not see me. I was faced with seeing his cover instead of him.

    Over the 60 or 70 visits I’ve made to the “Guru’s” office since the 1990s, I, myself have learned something about the disease. I have also come to know his nurse, a most reassuringly competent woman, quite well. To avoid being misdiagnosed up by some harassed cover, for almost a year we worked out an arrangement where I reported blood test results and my self-assessment of my condition to her. She in turn relayed this information to the “Guru” and he issued prescription refills. I’m better now than I’ve been in years.

    Even so, we eventually decided I should see another specialist. I did that last Tuesday. He was a charming man, but he was in a hurry and I know he misdiagnosed several of my “mutations.” I was better off being cared for by the experienced nurse and her absent boss than I am now.

    Incidentally, a doctor friend at dinner last week told me that the big difference in medicine today is that thanks to the insurance industry, the patient rather than his doctor is now responsible for making sure he gets proper medical care, and if he is “non compus mentus,” nobody is responsible.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    P.L.,

    The trend your doctor friend identified has been this way for a few years now, if not for a decade. For those spoiled by the earlier way–or for those who live in Minnesota [if you saw Judy’s comment]–this trend is hard to take.

    I envision a waiting room in the next few years with a bunch of patients studying tablets with information and questions which, after answering them, gives a diagnosis they report to an administrator at a desk who hands them the Rx. If the administrator is alarmed, he/she tells the patient to make an appointment to see a doctor. Patient waits in a long line and is told to come back in two weeks.

    As for the doctor you just saw, my guess is that he may be a specialist, but he’s not at the level of the “guru” you saw for 20 years. It’s not his fault. Maybe you can teach him a thing or two.

  9. Anonymous Said:

    Here’s a happy hospital story that involves a 62-year-old cousin that I’m close to. He collapsed on the tennis court 19 days ago as his long-time girlfriend was watching him play. He received CPR on the court, but not immediately because his instructor didn’t know CPR so they had to find someone who did. He was rushed to St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn (Long Island) and remained unconscious for two or three days. We really didn’t know whether he was going to live or die, and if he lived, whether he would have any cognitive brain function. He was on a ventilator for four or five days. When he regained consciousness and the nurses told him that his daughter (age 25, an only child) was on the right side of his bed, he turned his head to the right, so we knew then and there that his brain was functioning. His recovery has been nothing short of a miracle. The staff at St. Francis has been extraordinary, from the cardiac ICU and critical care nurses to the 38-year-old superstar surgeon who performed a double bypass and then a week later implanted a fibrillator. And as if all that isn’t great enough, a few days after my cousin regained consciousness and learned that his girlfriend had not left his side the entire time, he proposed marriage to her, right from his hospital bed. He’s recuperating at home now. My aunt lost her first-born son to pneumonia about 20 years ago. My family prayed so hard that she wouldn’t lose another. We are so grateful that our prayers were answered!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Anonymous,

    What a perfect collaboration of quick [as possible] action, caring family and significant other, skilled staff, superb surgeon and prayers. Your family will have so much to celebrate at your cousin’s wedding! May he continue to flourish in his recovery.

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