Friday, May 30, 2008


My 15 year old son was hit with a baseball last week, and I took him to our “physician group practice” on Friday morning so that someone could take a look at his swollen hand and wrist. We were seen very promptly for his appointment, and once the nurse practitioner checked his hand/wrist area, we were sent off to x-ray. Again, they took him right away and sent the films back to the nurse practitioner. She said that they looked negative, but a radiologist would read the films and have a report available within 24 hours. I was advised to call back on Saturday and check on the results. My son’s arm was splinted, and we were off and on our way.

Late Saturday morning, I called the number that I was given and asked for the results of the final radiology report. I was put on hold, told that the results “were not in the system,” and advised to call back a couple of hours later. I did just that, and again I was told that the results were not available. The woman on the phone told me to call back on Sunday. Each time, the person on the phone was polite but was just unable to help.

I called back again on Sunday morning. I was told again that the results were still “not in the system.” This time, I was told to call back on Tuesday! The woman answering the phone told me that even if my son’s hand was broken, nothing more than the splint would be done until Tuesday anyway. When I questioned her, she seemed very irritated, and this was when I started to get treated like the “annoying patient.” I was made to feel like a real pest! She begrudgingly explained that there was nothing more that they could do until Tuesday (after Memorial Day), and I made it clear that I was unhappy (though not impolite). A couple of hours later, I got a call from the practice telling me, “It was not an easy task,” but they were able to get the x-ray read that day. The woman on the phone treated me like I had just been done a great big favor!

While I realize that far more serious things can happen (and I’m certainly glad that nothing did -- especially on Memorial Day weekend!), I was not pleased with my son’s care. It seems that we are being bombarded of late with information encouraging us, as patients, to speak up. We are being told to ask questions, be an informed patient, be a partner in your own healthcare, and the list goes on and on. Why, then, do we sometimes get treated as “difficult” when we do, in fact, ask questions; when we do call back when we are told to; when we actually expect what we were told to expect? If patients and families are going to partner in their care, there certainly needs to be some receptiveness on the part of the healthcare provider. I’m not trying to bash anyone -- I just think that there should be a bit of give and take on BOTH sides.

Winnie Tobin


  1. My friend had an experience where she had to advocate for her infant so that the healthcare team got on the same page on a very important issue, but then was VERY concerned about not being perceived as difficult. Knowing that being seen as the "difficult" patient results in worse care, I understand this is a very real fear. What a catch-22. Are we really in a healthcare culture where we have to bring cookies to bribe for better care or to smooth over our own advocacy (as opposed to simply a "thank you")?

    At the NPSF Congress, an Australian physician asked about the absence of compassion in healthcare. Maybe this is where this problem lies. If you are looking at your problem with a compassionate eye, who doesn't recognize a mother's desire to know whether her child has a broken bone, regardless if it changes the treatment.

    I hope your son is playing baseball again soon.

  2. Situations like this happen every day, and so many of us grin and bear it. I'm certainly one of those people.

    Until recently I never thought about the quality of healthcare that I was receiving. However, over the past two years when I've reached out to my primary care phychian about concerns I have, I've always received the response of, "You'll be fine." Sure, I might be, but I'd like to think that my pcp is taking my concerns seriously and not brushing me aside like a nuisance.

    After some thought I've decided to change my pcp; I know I deserve better care than what I've been receiving. I deserve a doctor who's doing to listen to me, and take my concerns seriously.

  3. I agree that you ABSOLUTELY deserve a doctor that will listen to you at treat you as the PRIMARY care provider in your care, after all, that is what you are. They are the Primary Care Physician, but it is your body and your are the one that must enact most of the care being requested. Oh yeah, and it is your body and your life. It can be difficult, particularly when we, as patients, know that we do not have the medical expertise to know what the treatment options may be. However, they are options that we should be made aware of and should be involved in the discussion regarding selecting which option is best for us. Unfortunately, sometimes switching doctors may be what is necessary to find one that will listen and treat you as an equal in your treatment. However, I don't think many of those doctors truly exist yet, so best of luck to you in finding one, Anonymous. Don't worry, though, I think the tide is turning in this regard.



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