Some of the things modern medicine can do are simply mind-boggling. Many diseases, which in the past were always fatal, are now routinely cured. Tremendous advances in prosthetic limbs have greatly improved the quality of life for many of our wounded veterans and others.
I even saw a news report recently on new technology that shows promise in treating spinal cord injuries.
Another improvement in recent years has been the computerization of medical records. In today’s world, if doctors need to look at a patient’s chest X-ray in the middle of the night, they no longer have to drive to the hospital. They can view it on a home computer.
When I go to see my primary health care provider, the nurse records my vital signs on a laptop computer. The doctor also carries a computer. He types notes as I explain the reason for my visit. He can also use the computer to access past test results and other information about my treatment. If I need a prescription, he uses the computer to send it to the pharmacy electronically.
Though it would appear doctors have gone paperless, there still seems to be plenty of the stuff left for us patients to deal with.
Recently I had an appointment with an out-of-town specialist I’ve been seeing for four years. When I checked in, the woman asked me if I wanted to read their financial policies. When I said no, she had me sign a form indicating that I had been offered the chance and had declined.
After I signed it, she tore the white form from the yellow form and asked if I wanted the yellow copy. I said no and she replied, “OK, I’ll shred it.”
Next she asked if I wanted to read their privacy policies. Again I said no and again I had to sign a form indicating I had passed up the chance to peruse the policies. And again I passed on the yellow copy, which she indicated she also would shred.
Next (good thing I arrived early), she handed me a clipboard with three more forms to fill out, “since you haven’t been here yet this year.”
Name, birth date, gender, address, insurance information, etc. The second form was a complete medical history, much of which I can’t remember. When did I have my last tetanus shot? Your guess is as good as mine.
What bugs me more than questions I can’t answer is being asked for the same information over and over again. I’ve been a patient for four years, and I’ve filled out the same medical history form at least four times. If last year I wrote that my father died from kidney disease, do they think that this year I’m going to change it to cancer just for the fun of it?
Shouldn’t they have entered that information into their computer by now and just ask me if there have been any changes? Or why can’t they have my history sent electronically from my family doctor’s office? They should have at least a dozen of them in their files.
But the best example I’ve seen yet of paper proliferation was when the specialist said I needed to have a procedure done. It would be performed one floor below his office, in a facility owned by him and his partners. Great.
But then the woman who schedules the procedures gave me yet another medical history form.
“Complete that and bring it with you to the procedure,” she said.
“But I just filled one out 15 minutes ago,” I replied.
“I know, but the procedure center won’t accept our form.”
Let me get this straight. The procedure center, which you own and which is right below this office, won’t accept your medical history form. You won’t accept your own form?
Also, should I be worried that while Starbucks never forgets my birthday, my doctors can’t seem to remember it … or my name … or my gender?
Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.