Friday, June 28, 2013

The “Best Health System in the World” Part 1: Appointments

Okay, I agree that once you see a doctor here in the United States, you probably WILL get the best service available. My little rant here is aimed at the system and the long, grueling process you must go through to see the doctor.

This morning I had a very chilling (and I don’t mean that in a good sense) experience when I called up the hospital to make an appointment for my roommate. That’s fine, I suppose, but I really shouldn’t have had to do it in the first place; Russ had an appointment scheduled for June 6, but they called him up the day before the appointment to tell him the appointment was postponed and that they would call him for a new appointment – they never called back. What made the experience so horrifying is the date for when the visit was set: October 29. Now, had HE been the one to cancel the appointment, I might not have fidgeted so much, but honestly! they were the perpetrators.

Last year, in July, Russ set up an appointment for an ophthalmologist because he has some serious visual problems; the soonest he could get an appointment was for August 13, 2013 – more than a year away. He has yet to get an orthopedic appointment for his back problems. sigh…

Regarding ophthalmology appointments: I had an appointment for 10:00 am with the ophthalmologist last June; I finally left at 7:30, without ever having seen the doctor. I made a new appointment for 3 days later, which had a much better result—I left after about 3-1/2 hours later with an appointment for a year later; all was well. Open-mouthed smile

However, I might say that my recent personal experiences might top even the abovementioned experiences. I had a 7:00 pm appointment with my primary doctor on April 9. The hospital even called to remind me of the appointment. I arrived 5 minutes early and waited until someone came to the desk (I have no idea where they were…). When someone came in 15 minutes later, I was informed that Dr. P had left early. WHAT?! I was more than just a little ticked because I needed to have new prescriptions for my various meds and a paper filled out so I could start having my insulin again, but at least they gave me a Metrocard and a new appointment for the following morning at 9:00.

I got up somewhat earlier on a very rainy morning and caught a 7:45 bus (I take two buses to get to the hospital); when I was 10 minutes away from the hospital, I received a phone call from the hospital saying Dr. P would not be in that day. WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????? I wasn’t furious; I was extremely very much more than furious—I was deadly. People that hadn’t planned on getting off the bus at the next stop got off anyway. And I went to the hospital anyway, and was in line at 8:55. There was no way I could NOT get at least my prescriptions, so I informed them that I was less than pleased; bad move, I guess, because I finally got out of there at 4:00 (a 7 hour wait) with, however, my prescriptions and an appointment for June 21. No insulin request, though.

The really offensive thing was the letter I received about a week later informing me that I had missed my appointment and that I needed to make a new one. I was also perplexed, to say the least.

The appointment on the 21st went very well indeed, even though Dr. P kept asking why I hadn’t done requested exams that I had actually done on the set dates; this definitely tied for being the shortest visit I’d ever had—it only lasted 3-1/2 hours, and was more the exception than the norm. They also set up an appointment with the dermatologist for a rather worrisome skin problem; the date: March 4, 2014. geez!  My question is this: why do doctors feel that our time is less important than theirs? Were patients to be paid for the time they spend in doctors’ waiting rooms, according to the money they lose waiting, do you think waiting times might be somewhat shorter? I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject.


  1. Those experiences are just horrendous Mary and I sympathize. There's no excuse for such inefficiency! My father belonged to an HMO called Kaiser Permanente in California. They have their own doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. When I went to pick up one of his prescriptions, which had been PHONED IN THREE DAYS PRIOR, it took me TWO HOURS just to get it!! The place was wall to wall people jammed in, waiting. Here, I go to my pharmacy with a new prescription, (ie. not phoned in beforehand), takes 20 minutes; 30 if they're really busy, but it's never crowded because people are free to use any pharmacy they want. I've never had to wait more than half an hour to see my doctor either. It does sometimes talke loing to get an appointment to see a specialist though, unless it's an emergency.

    1. I know. If we go to the hospital pharmacy, we have to wait forever. If we go to the pharmacy round the corner, it's done in a maximum of 45 minutes. I leave the prescriptions and go do other things in the meantime. It almost makes me think longingly of the 1 hour waits in Mistretta. sigh...

  2. First of all, move to a smaller city. No joke, a smaller city has less people and more time to devote to you, the patient. It can't be a really tiny place, but a city of about one hundred thousand is just about perfect. I live in one and I am lucky to have a physician who never keeps me waiting, ever, in seven years, and I go once a month like clock work. And other times when I get really sick with the MS. When I moved to Minneapolis with a job transfer, I experienced many of the complaints you have, no doctors available to see me, no time for appointments for months, sometimes over a year, and forget about prescriptions. It got so bad that when I finally got to see a doctor, he immediately sent me back home on emergency medical leave so that I could be diagnosed and treated. There is no excuse for bad behavior but there is an a large city an expectation that things will not go well, and that is simply due to the number of people involved. Immense numbers of people. Millions of people in New York alone, who want to be seen "right now". And therein lies the problem. Frustration levels go up, patients feel slighted and neglected, rightfully so, and the one with the best insurance and the most money wins. It's that simple. Your best bet and everybody elses in New York and larger cities everywhere, is to change your lifestyle to a healthier one, with less stress, more sleep and alas, probably less money and insurance that sucks. But hey, if you have your health, you got everything you need. Keep blogging Mary, you can and will make a difference. And I will help all I can with comments, which may or may not be productive, depending on my point of view. Hope this helps my friend, I wrote it as anonymous, but its me, Judi, from facebook. Just so you know!!!!

  3. Gosh, this is the thing about hospitals! They don't have room until a long time later, and when they do, they hardly pay attention. So sorry for your experience!


I would really love to read your thoughts, so leave a comment so we can all converse. Thanks.