Sunday, November 09, 2008

Getting a call back from the doc!

Just finished a week of testing for my nearest and dearest. Getting the results was a bit of a challenge, even when I pulled rank with the "This is Dr. Paley calling Dr. R. for test results" which presumably pushed pushy me to the head of the phone call line.

Here's an article I wrote several years ago on the subject. I'd love to hear your stories about getting through (or not) to your physician.


Anonymous said...

I thought this was a doozy: My former internist, who had treated me many times for recurrent UTIs, went on vacation and left no one to cover her office except her receptionist. I called in and asked for a call back to see if I could get a prescription for my usual antibiotic. The receptionist informed me that the doctor was on vacation for a week and if I felt my condition couldn't wait a week I should go the the emergency room. Really? I couldn't believe there was absolutely no one who could either see me or call in an Rx. I went to an urgent care joint and got the meds. At my next visit to the doctor I mentioned this -- kind of thinking maybe it was a mistake -- and was told that vacation coverage is a two way street and she doesn't feel like covering for anyone else, so she doesn't have anyone cover for her. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I thought this was a little chilly. She's since moved on to an insurance company! Probably a better fit there.

femail doc said...

Anon: How can a doctor leave her patients without access to medical care? ERs are expensive for pts. Most insurance companies require us to document who's on call when we are not.

JeanMac said...

I have only called my Doc once -Wayne's brother passed away expectantly and I needed advice on how to deal with telling him/what if scenario. He called within 10 minutes.But I don't bug him so I think he knows it's very important if I call. I actually told the receptionist she could just relay his answer.He's a keeper.

Ruth said...

From Canada- I always get same day appointments with my FD for urgent things, but have to book ahead for physicals. He only does them one day a week. There is always someone on call when he is away. However, I only call when it is important and the office knows this. Getting to see a specialist is harder. I have had a locked knee now for 5 days, very painful, off work and need an arthroscopy asap. I see the orthopedic surgeon this Wednesday. But compared to bone fractures, this is less urgent. Of course we do not pay for medical care here and our employee deductions for our public health care are low compared to private insurance. In spite of the rhetoric of American politicians, our health care system, while not perfect, does work well.

Anonymous said...

This is anon again. I agree it is cavalier and asking for trouble; not to mention the burden shifting to EDs. However, I had to laugh when she closed her practice and sent out an agonizing and angry letter to her patients blaming restrictive insurance and Medicare reimbursement for PCPs for forcing her hand in closing the practice, and then come to learn that she's now a gatekeeper for a big, nasty health insurance company. BTW, my new doctor is a gem. I think she actually likes practicing medicine!

kenju said...

I have a hard time getting through when I need refills. The pharmacy will fax the doc's office when one is needed, but it may take 4-5 days to get a response. That is unacceptable, I think.

Anne Morley said...

Liking the doctor for his/her competence and compassion but being disenchanted with the way the office staff treats me has caused me to change doctors a few times.

I wish that doctors would have a routine "call back time". That way when I phone in the morning with a question, I can plan my day around those hours instead of having to 'stay home' and wait all day for the call which often doesn't even come until the next day. It is totally frustrating.

I've never had a doctor who used email to connect with patients. I'd really like that.

Sometimes it has helped to speak with a nurse, but often they are acting as gate keepers too and won't "disturb" the doctor.

I have never felt "known" by any office staff ( secretaries or nurses). Granted, I'm not in there every other week or anything like that, but still, after a few years it seems like there ought to be some recognition.

My sister says, "Bring them goodies a few times and they'll remember you". Somehow I can't bring myself to take junk food to a place that is supposed to be advocating for health.

femail doc said...

KJ: Turning around rx requests is frustrating from our end too. Sometimes pharmacies lose the FAX or never get it. I wish there was a better way to do it; we are often greeted by 30-40 rx requests at the start of the workday. And running out of meds can be catastrophic!

AM: I feel your pain, and I know how frustrating it is to miss a call back having been both caller and callee. Cell phones have improved things, but e-mail is most convenient of all provided no one's collapsed by the computer. I once got a phone message at home (I'd been out for the evening) from one of my cancer patients who had my home number. Basically his recorded message from 2 hours earlier said "I've fallen and I can't get up." Oh heavens, gotta' use the right access channel at the right time!

I think your sister has a point, and it makes me wince a bit, but fruit or a couple of flowers from the garden does highlight your name in dayglow pink at the front desk!

Ann of the Incredible Gift said...

Our family doctor has Sick Call in the afternoon, a time when they see patients who need to be seen the same day. Because my daughter had a chronic heart/lung condition, and was in the office every three months to monitor her condition, the office staff knew us well. During regular hours, I would usually be calling to ask for a prescription, or to get a Sick Call spot for her. The doctors have obliged us almost every time. There have been a few times when I called with some other sort of question. In those cases the time from call to call back has been fairly closely related to how urgent the question was, and whether the doctor was handy right then, or in seeing a patient. The actual time of call back varying from very soon after I called, to the next day.

Evenings or weekends, I can leave a message with the answering service and have a real live doctor-on-call return my call within an hour or so. On some occasions the return time has been less, as little as 20 minutes.

On the other hand, with our old dentist, there were times when I drove to the office to make an appointment in person because I could not get through on the phone. Appointments were often distant from the call to make them. Case in point: I had chipped a tooth over Christmas vacation when I found an olive pit where it didn't belong. I called in January shortly after we returned home. My appointment was in April, and the earliest available according to the receptionist. As more pieces continued to chip off the tooth, I called to see if I could move the appointment up any. No, nothing sooner available. I had to have a root canal, and a post and crown. The dentist wanted to know why I didn't come in sooner; he said he might have been able to fix it without the root canal earlier. He was shocked to learn that his staff had refused to get me in any sooner.

Our current dentist can get me in within a week if I am having a problem without pain, and he told me he has a little time set aside each day to deal with emergencies.