Customer Experience and Design

A New Patient Adventure…A Hair Pulling Experience

A Day At The Doctor...A Hair Pulling Experience

I grew up in a small town in Iowa and lived in and around my hometown for 30 years. It wasn’t unusual for my commute to work to be interrupted by a John Deere tractor driving down the highway. When I hit 30 I traded in my rural roots and headed off to the booming metropolis of St. Louis for a change of scenery. I, like A Day At The Doctor...A Hair Pulling Experiencemany others, struggle to schedule routine and regular doctors appointments so when I moved, finding a new doctor was not a priority. I have been blessed with a relatively healthy life thus far and tend to view healthcare as sick care. (When I’m sick I will go to the doctor.) Needless to say, it took me a while to take the time to find a new doctor after moving to St. Louis. In fact, it didn’t happen until I had found a veterinarian and a groomer for my dogs, a hair stylist I liked and a car repair shop that was reliable and trustworthy. To be honest, I still may not have a doctor if it weren’t for the fact that I needed to get a refill on my prescription.

Who Uses FAX Machines? Doctors Do…
I took some time looking online to find doctor reviews and patient referrals and, of course, listened to word of mouth from my new friends in St. Louis. Once I settled on a doctor I made a call to schedule an appointment and then contacted my previous doctor back in Iowa to have my records FAXED to my new doctor. The fact that fax machines are still being used, not only as the primary technology but the only one, both humored and frightened me at the same time. But I thought whatever works to get my information to the new doctor, works for me. Having my previous medical history in the hands of my new doctor would save me time. I wouldn’t have to fill out the medical history paper work because I took the time prior to my appointment to have my records faxed to them…Right? Wrong, this didn’t save me any time at all.

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A NEW Patient Again and Again…
I was advised to arrive 20 minutes early to fill out paperwork and when I arrived I checked in and was handed a blank stack of medical history forms to fill out. I began by filling in the easy stuff, name, social security number, birth date, address but when I got to the medical history part I felt like writing “check the records that were faxed to you.” I stumbled my way through the paperwork and turned it in, thinking to myself, if that were a test I would be happy with a C. I sat back down and waited for the nurse to call my name, and when she did, I followed her back as she proceeded to ask me questions about my medical history. The same questions that I had just struggled to answer on paper. And again, I felt like telling her to “look at the paper work I just wasted 20 minutes of my time filling out.”

At this point I was ready to see the doctor, get my prescription and be on my way. The doctor entered and I had a similar experience with her, a lot of repeated questions and answers, but I survived, got my prescription and set up another appointment for the following year. I was pretty proud of myself for scheduling a routine appointment! As painful as this visit was, I was glad that it is only a process that new patients have to endure, so I wouldn’t have to do it again…Right? Wrong, I received a letter in the mail that my doctor is closing shop, leaving me once again with the rigorous task of finding a new doctor and worse yet, becoming a NEW patient again.

Those Are MY Medical Records, Aren’t They…
As I began my search for a new doctor, I was able to seek additional referrals from friends now that I had lived in the area for a couple of years. I picked up the phone and called to make an appointment and the receptionist asked that I have my medical records faxed to them. After making the appointment I called my previous doctor and asked that my medical records be sent to my new doctor. I was told that they could fax the records from my single visit but that they could not fax my older records and that I would have to contact my doctor back in Iowa to have those faxed. Wait, aren’t those my medical records? I’m giving you permission to fax them, why do I have to contact the doctor in Iowa to fax them? The receptionist reiterated that she would be happy to fax my one record but I would need to fill out a release form in order for her to do that. She asked if I had a fax machine….seriously, why do all these doctors insist on the fax machine? I asked if she could email it, but email wasn’t an option. So I am now waiting for snail mail to deliver a release form that I have to fill out and drop back in snail mail in order for my request to be processed.Upon hanging up with her I called my doctor in Iowa and asked to have my medical records faxed to the new doctor. Again I was told that I would have to fill out a release form and that I could get that at my new doctor’s office. So, I now have to fill out 2 different release forms in order to get MY medical records faxed to my new doctor. And I am sure when I go to my new doctor I will have to fill out the same paperwork that I have jumped through so many hoops to get to them prior to my appointment.

I can’t wait for the day when all my medical records are stored in one place and I won’t have to get permission to have MY records sent to a new doctor. A secure and private location that is easily accessible by ALL of my doctors – both current and future!

 

About the Author

Kate Tuttle is a senior marketing professional with more than 13 years of marketing experience in both B2B and B2C environments. She has more than 7 years of healthcare industry experience and is passionate about technology and its impact on consumer experience.

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