They Faxed What To You?!


This could be a funny entry, but I think I have lost my sense of medical humor after many years of erroneously trusting doctors staff to use old-fashioned common sense, basic powers of deduction and/or simple reasoning skills. Yes, I know. Trust me, I know it’s a silly (and sometimes dangerous) assumption; I just continue to expect intelligent file handling and proper sharing of the correct information when my physician refers me to another specialist! To be fair, most of the staff get it right most of the time, but??????

At my last appointment with my RA doc (the follow-up appointment which had originally been scheduled for November 2010 and cancelled/rescheduled so often that it took place March 29, 2011!), the in-house lab did an extensive panel of blood tests. Several hours later, one of the nurses called to explain that some of the results were back – my ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) was sky-high & Doctor W wanted me to see a Gastroenterologist soon. (Hmmm – same story about 12 months ago.)

I’ve put off contacting the Gastro’s office as I am still fighting a nasty bout of IBS. (Actually, I am betting that is why the lab work came back wonky.) Someone at Dr. W’s office sent my lab results and contact info to the Gastro; his nurse called me today to set up an appointment. A hint of puzzlement in her voice tipped me off – – – -something wasn’t adding up for her. Not sure why, but I asked “What is the date on the lab-work you are referencing?” “Uh, erm, it seems to be July of 2010!” No wonder she was confused!

I immediately called Dr. W’s office, went through the customary dance with the automated phone service and managed to snag a real, live person. (Pressing “0” sometimes over-rides the system and lets you contact a person instead of a “leave a message, we’ll get back to you” recording.) As briefly as possible, I explained that someone at their office had contacted Dr. G’s office and supplied them with July 2010 lab results instead of the relevant March 2011 lab results! I expected some embarrassment and an apology – what I received was a blithe explanation along the lines of “Oh yes, that happens often. The lab results do not reach a patients file for a couple of days ~ if our staff contacts another physician right after we’ve seen you here, the current results aren’t available to them yet.” OK. . . .so this seems to be common knowledge throughout the practice? With that in mind, it doesn’t occur to the staff to seek out up-to-date lab results before contacting another physician? Groan! Somebody, anybody, please tell me this sort of error doesn’t occur with predictable regularity with this clinic!!! (Except, obviously, it does!)

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