It will be hard to improve healthcare in this country as long as healthcare systems are this inept.
As a prime example of the current level of incompetence, consider the facts of this ridiculous scenario:
- In November, a patient makes an April appointment (the first available one on the books) with a doctor at the practice they’ve been going to for 30 years.
- Sometime between November and April, the doctor decides to retire and notifies some but not all of his patients.
- The doctor’s practice neglects to inform the patient that the doctor is retiring then calls the day before to cancel the appointment.
- The practice gives the patient a number to call to find a new doctor.
- The patient calls seeking more information about how a doctor can cancel an appointment the day before
- The call center decides to make an appointment with another doctor on the patient’s behalf.
- When the patient learns of this, the patient asks for the appointment to be canceled.
- A call center representative assures the patient the appointment has been canceled.
- A few weeks later, the patient receives a bill for a missed appointment; the health system acknowledges they did not cancel the appointment as they promised.
This asinine set of facts sounds fictitious, but it is not. Emory Healthcare actually did this.
Thinking this would make a compelling story, I sent a note to Emory’s PR department on May 20. In it, I noted that “the real question I am hoping to answer with my article is how often does this happen, and why is it allowed to happen?”
It seems like a fair question, but weeks later, no one at Emory can provide an answer to the question. Perhaps the PR department shouldn’t follow the lead of their doctors; instead, they should communicate with the public.
When asked about the level of treatment, one call center person said,
“That’s pretty crappy. I’m not going to say it’s not.” At least they could admit the obvious.
But it sparks a bigger question since there is so much discussion about improving healthcare in this country. There is a lot of opportunities to make improvements. But how will this happen when healthcare systems can’t even send alert patients their doctors are retiring? Or, they can’t even seem to cancel an appointment?
These are the same people we trust to make life and death decisions. Perhaps they should start with the basics. Get them right first if you want patients to trust you.