Thursday, May 5, 2011

Healthcare Industry is Hopelessly Behind the Customer Service Technology Curve

One of the great things about technology is that it has vastly improved customer service.  I can order products, pay, track shipments, get support, do just about everything from my laptop to smart-phone.  So, why is it that some medical facilities are still hopelessly behind the technology curve?

Mind you, not all are.  For example, I can get all my test results online which is far faster and more convenient than it used to be.  But this post is about simple, run of the mill, customer service - the sweet spot if you will - of this blog.  Although it has been awhile, alas, I come with yet another story of healthcare customer service gone awry!

I practice Informed, Self-directed Healthcare (ISH).  I take responsibility for my health! I consider doctors as specialized consultants I pay to keep me informed and help me make decisions - not dictators who tell me what I MUST do.  This is not unlike the way I characterize lawyers.  I see a lot of doctors, take their advice, do a great deal of independent research, and render my own opinion.

Recently, I saw a functional medicine doc.  He did a fecal analysis test to delve into my stomach problems (after my GI doc threw up his hands and could not provide a diagnosis) which came back with suspicious results for heavy metals.  We followed up with a Urine Toxic Metals test that revealed high levels of mercury and lead and an elevated level of arsenic.  I thought, in the interest of continuum of care, that I should share these results with my hematologist (I have macrocytotic anemia), gastroenterologist (for my stomach problems of unknown etiology), and my GP.  This is where the "fun" starts.

I contacted my hematologist's nurse who asked if I could fax the results.  "Fax?," I said, "Who uses a fax anymore?  How about if I scan the results and sent it to you as a PDF via e-mail?"  She promptly provided an e-mail address and said she would print out a copy and enter the file into the electronic system (they have a completely digital records system but some docs STILL like paper).  Then I contacted my GP's nurse who is at the same facility.  She would not even consider an e-mail and refused to provide an e-mail address (which I could have guessed since they use the first initial and last name "at" the center name ".com."  She had to have a fax.  Keep in mind that this is the same medical center with all the same systems.  Seems to me that she would have to scan the paper fax to create the electronic record I was willing to send her.  What, is she trying to protect, someone's scanning job?  My GI's nurse did not even have external e-mail!  How in God's name can you run ANY business without the ability to accept external e-mail?  Yikes!

Now, you may be thinking this is a HIPAA issue so I checked with a lawyer.  Since I am sending the info willingly by e-mail it is a de facto waiver of any expectation of privacy.  I explained that e-mail is actually more secure!  The e-mail goes ONLY to the person I send it to when a fax just sits on a machine for ANYONE to see.

The bottom-line is that I am e-mailing to the hematologist's nurse who offered to make a paper copy for my GP's nurse who will turn around and scan it into their digital system.  Ya, that's REAL efficient.  Since my GI's office is just down the road from my cardiologist's office (Doc Davis of Track Your Plaque fame) I will drop it off the next time I am at his office (which is thankfully frequent as we talk often).

And people wonder why healthcare is so expensive!  Sheesh!

Looking out for your health,

HearHawk

20 comments:

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HeartHawk said...

Thanks to all who commented. The wonderful thing about the world it is that it is eventually, and imexorably, self-balancing. However, our actions, even small comments, can help accelerate that balance!

HH

Surgical Blog said...

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