Medical Scheduling: The Case of the Missing Phone Call

Posted by Dr. El - June 6, 2011 - Anecdotes, Communication - 7 Comments

I went for my annual mammogram last week, leaving work early to do so and throwing my schedule into chaos.  When I arrived at the diagnostic center, the woman at the desk told me someone else would be out to talk to me.  Never a good sign.

The second lady took an apologetic tone.  “The doctor’s out today.  I’m sorry.  I thought I called everyone who was scheduled, but I must have missed you.”

“But I phoned this morning to confirm!” I replied with irritation.

After some negotiation and discussion with other people in the back room, they allowed me to have the procedure, with the understanding I’d have to come back again if more “views” were needed.  It was a crapshoot, but better than wasting the whole trip.

I think of how often residents have told me, “They didn’t have the paperwork they needed, so we had to reschedule” or, “The ambulette driver couldn’t find the hospital and by the time we got there, the doctor had left for the day,”  The residents were wrung out from the journey and from trying not to act irritated.  Their anxiety about their next appointment would include the worry about whether or not it would transpire successfully.

Personal reminders like this increase my compassion for those living with illness, and my appreciation for the nurses, secretaries, and transport aides who check and double check that everything is in place so that residents only have to worry about their medical conditions and not whether or not they’ll make it to their appointments.