I Guess We’re on Our Own Now…

Have you noticed that customer service isn’t what it used to be? Of course, people my age are remembering way back when you stopped at a gas station and white-uniformed young men jumped out and polished your windshield, checked your oil, cleaned your headlights and checked the tire pressure–without being asked? The idea then was that, while your customer only wanted a fill-up, it was wise to check all these other things just in case. That “just in case” attitude seems to have dropped off our collective radar. “Service” now seems to be just the bare minimum and no more.

Take my experience with a doctor’s office not long ago. My issue: I was running low on a prescription and the label read “No more refills,” which means the pharmacy has to call the doctor to renew the prescription. Well, I took matters into my own hands, which turned out NOT to be a good idea. My thinking was, ‘the doc is going to want some fasting bloodwork done so that she can evaluate whether I still need this or not.’

So I called the doc’s office and explained my situation, and asked could they send an order for me to have bloodwork done? Once they heard my story, they said that they would let the lab know and for me to come in “whenever.” I asked who would let me know when the lab got this paperwork (after all, we are talking about fasting after midnight, and coming in hungry to get my bloodwork done), and would they call me? The person on the phone assured me that I could just ‘go ahead and walk in any time and they’ll have your order.’

What usually has happened in the past is that believing this line of BS gets me to the lab bright and early (and hungry), and the lab person stares blankly at me and says that they have no order for this. So back to the drawing board I went again.

So to circumvent this, I just called the pharmacy and re-ordered the medication. The robo-voice on the other end assured me that, even though they would have to check with the doctor, my med should be ready in two days. Interpretation: this means that the doc’s office will have to call me to either 1) set up a fasting bloodwork order, 2) ask me come in and see the doc (after which she would surely order the fasting bloodwork), or 3) just fill the damn prescription.

I realize that in many businesses, some services you’d think that the business would handle are out-sourced to agencies we’ve never heard of; nor do we know why until we do some serious work in ferreting out answers. The point is this: there seems to be no one person who follows the string from the top to the bottom. I question how efficient out-sourcing is when you are constantly restating who you are, what your meds are, why you need this, that or the other thing done. Since the advent of electronic records, this should have made things easier for everyone, most of all the patient.

Therefore every time I have to contact a doctor’s office, it seems to be up to me to hold everything together, and quiz them: “Did you get my bloodwork back?” and “have you sent my records to my naturopath,” and “has my oncologist ok’d <whatever>?” Look, I understand that anyone working in a medical office these days is virtually hog-tied by HIPPA and endless rules and regulations so that they can barely be allowed to say “hello” to anyone walking in the door. Again, back in the day, your doctor had ALL your information, all your paperwork, all your history, and all your records. There was just the one person who had all your information.

This new “jig-saw puzzle” approach to any sort of customer service is making us regular people having to be our own advocates, which perhaps isn’t such a bad thing. Over the years, I have kept my own medical records, notes, etc. and even carry a small “Emergency Information” list with me in my wallet. It includes my name, address, medical history, surgeries, family history, emergency contacts, medications, and so on.

So, since I don’t trust that anyone has my whole story, I’m going right back to the method that has always worked for me: keeping track of all my information on paper. Any time I have to do anything medical, I have all my records on me and can recall chapter and verse to any question. This way I save them time and save me further aggravation. I am and will be my own “top to bottom thread” that keeps my history straight.

And while computer records can be lost or mis-managed, you can’t beat a notebook and a pen, plus a folder of printouts of everything medical. So much for the advance of technology….I guess we are on our own now.




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