I received The Letter a month ago.
Indeed, it was time for my annual mammogram. My procrastination at scheduling had less to do with the anxiety all women experience than with it being only one of a number of “to-do’s” I hadn’t yet tackled.
No sweat. I have been using the same imaging company for a decade, and they’ve always been efficient, professional and patient-centered.
I arrived for my appointment well ahead of time and completed check-in. Fifteen minutes passed. Two more patients arrived. They were processed, and we all waited – captive to the excessively loud tv blaring the trendy chef’s creation at us in the waiting room. Fifteen more minutes passed with three patients waiting, the tv blaring and nary a tech in sight. Thinking I’d waited long enough, I approached the receptionist.
Me: Wasn’t my appointment at 12:30?
Her: No, your appointment is at 12:40.
Me: It’s now 12:50. Shouldn’t a tech be coming for me?
Her: Not yet. Another 10 minutes.
(My thought bubble): Really? Is that because they are all at lunch or am I just not clued into “med time”?
I sat back down. At 1:00 a tech called me, right on (their) schedule! That must be why I heard no apology for being called late …service at 1:00 for a 12:40 appointment with a 12:15 check-in time. What’s the problem? I completed the exam and left, slightly irritated at the wasted time and the blaring tv, but telling myself, “as long as the testing goes well, let the appointment hassle go”.
Four days later, I came home to a cheery voicemail, “Hi, it’s Diane from XX Imaging. Please call me about your recent visit.”
Her cheeriness didn’t fool me. She wasn’t calling with that “How did your visit go…were you seen on time…did we meet your needs… did we squish your breasts as tightly as we could…”
No, her call was the dreaded “You need additional testing.” Taking a deep breath, I dialed her number.
Me: Hi, I’m returning your call.
Cheery Diane: Yes, I need to schedule you for a digital …… and a …… It’s all just a little itty bitty bit more testing.
Me: Is the additional testing for calcifications like the other times I’ve been called back, or is it for something else?
Horrified Diane: OH NO! I can’t give YOU that information!!
(My thought bubble): WTF? It’s MY breast we’re talking about.
Me: Why not?
Horrified Diane: Patients aren’t allowed to have THAT information. I’m just the scheduler. Call your doctor if you want that information.
(My thought bubble): I hired you to perform a test. I paid you for the test. I’m entitled, by law, to my records, but I’m not ALLOWED to have that information? Is that part of the HIPAA privacy law or the revised NSA “we-get-all-your-data-but-YOU-can’t-have-your-data” law?
(My thought bubble): You’re just the scheduler? ‘Cuz I’m certain that 99.99% of women who get a call for additional testing are going to ask you questions. What happened to Do No Harm? Want to take a wild guess what’s happening to my blood pressure and my emotional health right now?
(My thought bubble): Call my doctor? Are you shittin’ me? I love my doctor. But COME ON. These are the same docs who cram back-to-back patients into 10 minute time slots from the minute the office opens until it closes. I have NEVER made a call to my doctor’s office in which I’ve asked to speak to my doctor and actually spoken to my doctor.
Me: OK, let’s schedule the additional testing.
Cheery Diane: OH YES! Let me look.
Me: First I need you to call my insurance company in case these tests require pre-authorization.
Horrified Diane: OH NO! WE don’t do that. If you have questions, YOU should call your insurance company.
(My thought bubble): I was not allowed to keep the insurance I liked, Period. My premium went up, not down, Period. My deductible increased, not decreased, Period. My out-of-pocket max skyrocketed, Period. YOU DO CALL FOR PRE-AUTHORIZATION FOR YOUR PATIENTS, PERIOD!!
Me: Diane, I need to know these tests are pre-authorized. I can’t call my insurance company and just say, “I need additional testing; will you authorize it?” Since you are unwilling to make the call, I need the exact codes for the tests.
Cheery Diane: OH YES! I can look up those codes. I’ll even give YOU the codes.
Me: Thank you.
Hang up. Take a deep breath.
Can I at least keep my breast??? Period.