Friday, October 22, 2010

What Do You Do If A Doctor Won't Listen To You?

So you've read books and websites and talked to friends and you go into your doctor's office with specific questions. But the doctor is only prepared to talk at you, not listen to you. What do you do then? Don't give up. I had an experience yesterday that made me so mad I was almost in tears. I posted it on my personal blog, then it occurred to me that this has probably happened to many people who are trying to take control of their own health. I know I posted it on facebook with the doctor's name and two other people who saw it have had trouble with this doctor. How many people that I don't know or who didn't see the facebook post have also had problems with him? And he's just one of many. So I'll repost here.

I was going to send a letter of complaint to the clinic (he's one of about 15 doctors), but I couldn't find a name of someone to send it to, so I used the email address listed for sending resumes. I have no idea who received my email or if anything will ever be said to the doctor, but I feel like I've done all I can do by reporting him to the insurance company (Did you know that if an insurance company receives enough complaints about a doctor, they'll drop them?) and the insurance company will file my report with the state.

Here's my original post:

The $40 Argument

I took Jeffrey to be tested for food sensitivities this morning. It didn’t happen. When I called to make the appointment, I specifically asked the receptionist (and yes, I realize she’s the receptionist, not a nurse or doctor) if they did blood testing for food sensitivities. I explained that I was not looking for a food *allergy* test, but a food *sensitivity* test. I told her I didn’t want to get in there and pay my $40 co-pay only to find out that they can’t do what I want. (Can you guess where this post is going?) She put me on hold and came back after a couple minutes and said that yes, they do blood testing for food sensitivities in the office, but the only treatment is avoidance. That was fine with me and certainly sounded like they knew what I was talking about. So I made the appointment.

My first clue that this visit might be a problem was when I had to print out the new-patient paperwork this morning because they didn’t mail it as promised. I didn’t realize until last night that we hadn’t received it. We got there five minutes before our appointment time (10 AM) and waited about 10 minutes in the waiting room. Then we waited until almost 10:40 to see the doctor. How can they be 40 minutes behind that early in the day? Anyway, I could tell right away that he was going to be difficult. Some doctors just can’t deal with patients (or their mothers) who dare to ask questions or have thoughts of their own. I tried to be polite and explain why I was there. After he made a few notes and checked Jeffrey’s ears, nose and throat, he sat down and said something like, “Most people don’t understand food allergies and food sensitivities.” I told him I do understand the difference and Jeffrey had a skin-prick test 4 years ago that said he was not allergic to anything. (An excruciating skin-prick test that had my child *climbing* up me to escape the needles. Short of him breaking out in hives, we are never repeating that experience.) And that since then I had seen no evidence to make me believe that he had developed any food allergies (or any other allergies). Then he goes on to tell me that food “sensitivity” tests are not scientific. Isn’t it funny how they seem to be accurate for so many kids, though? I mean, they stop eating the foods these unscientific tests say are a problem and they start feeling better.

Me: “So you’re saying you can’t help me. I specifically asked when I made the appointment if you do blood tests for food-sensitivity here so I wouldn’t pay my co-pay only to find out you can’t do what I want. So I’ve waited 40 minutes for you to come in here and tell me now that you can’t do it?”

Doctor: “You can’t expect the staff to know the difference between allergies and sensitivities.” Really? The staff at an allergist’s office doesn’t understand the terminology of allergies and sensitivities? And he was going to educate *me*?

Me: “Maybe you should educate your staff, then. If you can’t help me, we’re leaving. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”

Doctor: “You aren’t wasting my time.”

Me: “Well, you’re wasting mine.”

Doctor, as he jerks open the door: “You need to get a new attitude.” Probably, but I hadn’t said anything rude to him at that point, so this was really inappropriate.

Me: “No, I need to get a new doctor. And I want my co-pay back since I was told before I made the appointment that your office could do what I specifically asked about and now you tell me you can’t.”

Doctor: “You’re not getting your co-pay back after the significant time I spent with you.”

Me: “Significant time? I waited for you for 40 minutes and you were in there for 10 minutes. That’s NOT significant time.”

I left and came home and called the insurance company. Because I did have contact with him, it qualifies as an office visit and we (and they) have to pay. I did, however, file a complaint with the insurance company that will also be filed with the state. I will not mention the doctor’s name here because I’m not sure if there are any legal ramifications of saying something like this about someone in public. These days, who knows? If you’re in the Atlanta area, and you want to avoid this doctor in the future, you can email me (you can email me through my profile) and I’ll give you his name privately.

It’s not that I couldn’t bend him to my will, although Jedi mind tricks would have been handy. It was his rude, patronizing attitude through the whole visit. When are doctors going to acknowledge that you don’t have to be a medical professional to have a brain?

1 comment:

boysmom said...

I am way too familar with that frustration. Unfortunately, insurance often offers a very small pool of a given specialty and we're dependent on them to order the tests we need. After doing due diligence and as much research of symptoms as is available to non-professionals, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask a doctor to consider what we've found. Then they should be able to either order the test or give a very good reason why they don't believe it's necessary. I'm a little too old to settle for 'because I said so' any more. :P