Monday, April 16, 2018

If I'm baffled by this, how can patients possibly manage?

I have passwords I use about once a quarter for five different health accounts so that I can track what is going on with myself and my family.  Two Patient portals, one mail-order prescription company, my insurer, my HSA and God alone only knows what else.  I sit through five different sets of menu options whenever I have to call these people one the phone.

Sometimes I can access my children's data, sometimes I cannot.  Usually the latter unless my children have remembered to allow me access (which they willingly do), because one is an adult and the other is over 13.  I could probably have any person in my house claim to be them when I call one of these organizations AND FINALLY GET to a human, but always make sure to have them available.

In trying to follow up on a refill where I know the drug, the dose, the quantity, the ordering provider, and even the providers order number, I cannot get access to whether an order has been placed.  My children's healthcare providers are almost as baffled as I am by the systems they must use.

If trained and aware people are challenged by this system, how could the average patient cope?  How would a disabled patient have any ****ing chance of working through this?  This ISN'T about technology.  Technology could solve these problems.  It's about interpretations of policy that make it difficult for anyone to do anything even remotely difficult.  It's about appropriate use of technology that makes my life better, not yours.  It's NOT about paying attention to your stuff first instead of mine.

Does anyone EVER LIVE test tree menus on automated call systems?  I've had to enter account number and zip code twice, enter my phone number (even though I'm not blocking them from receiving that information), and then when I finally get to a human, repeat the same information, and then be routed to the right person to help me and repeat it AGAIN. Then I have to go through a standard set of three questions they ask on every call that have NOTHING to do with the reason I'm calling.  Yes, this is my address, no it has not changed, and yes you have my current information.  Where is the patient service here?  It's not in my immediate service to make sure you have up to date information, that is NOT my #1 reason for calling you today.  Can we solve my problem first before we make sure that everything else is ok?

My God, today, when I'm home sick and still have to deal with their mess, my patience for how patients are treated is 0, and I just want to )_*(&*(&%*!~ scream.

Payers and providers: here are some things that you can do to fix your systems:

  1. Make your call 911 message as short and direct as possible.  I understand and appreciate why it is there, but I don't call you when I should call 911, and having to wait for you to draw it out drives me crazy.
  2. Let me hit the button I know I need before you finish your first message.  It should be: If you are a current patient/member please press 1.  Get me in the door quickly to solving MY problem.
  3. Solve my problem first, then yours (e.g., has my contact info changed), and NOT the other way around.
  4. If I ask for an operator or hit 0, take me to an operator, not another menu.
  5. Yes, I know you have an online system, IT DIDN'T HELP ME, which is why I'm calling you.  Don't frustrate me further with that information until I'm on the path to queue I need, or at least let me get there quickly.  Making me wait through that message doesn't solve my problem.
  6. Make it easy for me and my family to allow me (or some other individual) to act on their behalf.
  7. Thank you for trying to protect my privacy.  Stop gloating about the great job you are doing and help me solve my problem.  Another message I want to hear AFTER I'm in the right queue and have to wait for the next available operator.


I swear I want one of those answering machines I can program myself, just to make you feel my pain when you call me.

Thank you for calling the Boone residence.  If you are a family friend you have called the wrong unpublished number.  Please hang up and call the other number we gave you, or text the person you wish to reach.  If you are a member of the police or fire or other public safety department, please press 1.  If you are a vendor with whom we have an account please press 2. If you are a vendor or charitable society that we have not contacted, please hang up and do not call again.  This phone is on a do not call list, and repeated attempts to call this number will result in criminal prosecution. 3. If you are a healthcare provider, a health insurer, a pharmacy or PBM program with whom a member of this household has an affiliation please press 8 now.  *8*  If you need immediate ...

Thank you for contact the Boone family.  If you are a healthcare provider or pharmacy please press 1.  If you are a payer or PBM please ... *1*

Please enter the extension of the person you wish to reach.  If you would like a dial by name directory, please press 1.  Or press 0 for immediate... *0*

Then we'll ask for you name, phone number and 10 digit NPI number, and if you don't have it immediately, we'll wait a few minutes and then ask you to hang up and call us back when you have it.

How will that work for you?

And to follow up, today, I had to call my homeowners.  They knew who I was BEFORE I told them.  Their claims specialist already had my policy available because they KNEW who was calling them.  And then contacts a water damage specialist for me who called me withing 15 minutes for a same day appointment.  Thank you Liberty Mutual for getting it COMPLETELY right.


  1. We learn the phone trees we use most often. I can, at this point, order Rx refills in half the time my wife takes, because I know the tree.
    We keep handy this-is-how-to-impersonate-me files with all the necessary responses, numbers, and so on.
    We spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy simply knowing how to handle this, and have breakdowns when the providers rejig their phone trees because now we have to learn it all over again.
    And we swear. So. F***ing. Much.