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January 8, 2016

I like to share what I have learned so that others may benefit and perhaps not have to experience the same problems I have experienced. I learned two things this week:

  1. You cannot rely on your doctor to have ordered (sent to the pharmacy) the prescriptions you thought they had ordered. When my mother in law came to live with us this time, back in June, we took all her prescription bottles to the doctor we chose to be her primary care provider. When one of the medications ran out, we expected it to be refilled at the pharmacy. It was not. Other prescriptions had been ordered and refilled, but this one was not. So we went to another pharmacy, the one advertised on the original prescription bottle, and they filled it from their database. That was a couple of months ago. We thought we could do the same thing this time, when her prescription was running out over the New Year’s weekend. I was surprised when the pharmacy said no. The pharmacist said they had contacted my mother in law’s doctor in the city where she lived formerly, but he would not refill it.  She had one pill left for Monday morning. but when I called her doctor Monday morning, I discovered that all the doctor’s offices were closed, because it was New Year’s Day observed day. The on call service told us to go to the urgent treatment center. We went at 1:30 to the one closest to us, just in time for them to tell us they had just closed, we would have to go to the urgent treatment center across town ( it is a major feat for my mother in law to get in and out of the car and walk anywhere). We drove there, got out of the car, walked in, and I seated my mother in law so I could wait in the long line. When I got to the desk and told them the problem, they said that we would have to go to the emergency room because they do not order prescriptions there!  So my husband, her son, who is a schoolteacher and had taught school that day (which is probably why it never occurred to me that doctor’s offices would be closed) took his mother to the emergency room to have her prescription filled after a rough day of teaching. Could all of this have been avoided? YES! From now on, when a doctor is supposed to call in a prescription, I will check to make sure it has truly been ordered before I have to have it.
  2. You cannot depend on an appointment made many months in advance with a neurologist in the UK Healthcare system to be kept.  In early June, when my mother in law came to live with us, I asked my mother in law’s primary care provider to make an appointment with a particular neurologist who specializes in older brains, because I believed him to be the best there is in Lexington and was hoping he could help me help my mother in law to her best health possible. The appointment was made for late this month of January. So I have been looking forward to getting some help for over six months. I took her to another behavioral health specialist in June, but that provider was no help. She did not understand aging and all the ramifications of caring for the aged. I called the UK Healthcare provider’s office Tuesday to ask if our appointment was still there, since I had not heard from them. They said, no, the appointment had been canceled! However, they offered a substitute appointment on Friday at 8:00 and could we please be there 20 minutes early. I had another meeting I wanted to attend Friday morning, but I canceled it so that I could be there for the substituted appointment. Oh, and if I did not want to come in Friday, the next available appointment was in JULY! My husband had a snow day, so he came too, which was probably helpful on some level. I WAS SURPRISED WHEN THE DOCTOR WHO WALKED INTO THE EXAM ROOM WAS NOT THE DOCTOR WITH WHOM I HAD MADE THE APPOINTMENT. He is a very good doctor though, and I have to trust it was a God thing. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call later that day from the UK Healthcare provider with whom I originally scheduled the appointment, asking me if I would mind rescheduling our appointment???????

I hope my experiences this week are not common, but I fear they are far too common. I have a degree in health care administration, and we were taught that it is our job to fix problems like the ones I encountered this week. Unfortunately, the old adage still applies: “Buyer beware!” The problem is, consumers of health care don’t think of themselves as consumers (buyers) and don’t demand the same high quality goods and  services that they get from other suppliers of goods and services. Health insurance is to blame, I believe. It removes the pain of paying for bad goods and services and therefore causes bad goods and services to be perpetuated. I cannot refuse to pay for the appointment with the wrong doctor. It will be paid with Medicare when he bills it. I cannot refuse to pay the doctor who did not order the prescription when he should have…his charges have already been paid by Medicare. I can refuse to pay the co-pay though. But it probably won’t get much attention. They would just send the bill to a collections company without taking notice. I should write a letter to complain though, at least, in hopes that someone will be more careful in the future.

May you and yours be blessed this coming week…

 

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