A Typical Patient Frustration

We all experience them. Yes, they come in all different shapes, sizes and situations. I am talking about the everyday common annoyances that patients face when trying to find or facilitate their care with their health care providers (I will save the insurance topic for another day..it is worthy of many blog rants).  There are already so many stressors to begin with..things like pain and flaring symptoms; non or fuzzy diagnosis (es); the perpetual search for the right doctor, etc. But then we must deal with a host of bothersome and downright high blood pressure inducing situations. After returning from my trip to the NIH, I began the search to find the Periodontist that the NIH Dentist said I should find to follow me. Sounds pretty easy, right? Hmmm. I began by calling my regular Dentist (a Dentist I have only seen on one occasion, but found him very professional and cheery). I explained that I needed to be seen by a Periodontist and could they please give me a name? I was given the name of a Periodontist that they typically refer to. Of course I proceeded to follow the exercise that I have been well conditioned for before ever calling any doctor or dentist. I checked with my insurance plan to see if the Periodontist was “in” our network plan. After confirming that he was, I made my call to his office. I was greeted with a tone of voice by their receptionist that announced that she really did not want to be there. Visualize her with a snarl and look of irritation. I then explained that I have Sjogren’s and had been told to contact a Periodontist in my hometown to follow me. The first clue, otherwise known as a red flag..is when the doctor or doctor’s office representatives cannot pronounce Sjogren’s and you hear something akin to Shoguns; or Sho-jerns. I am not one to make a snap judgement…but so far when I have been met with that kind of clueless response, the red flag was warranted.  The crabby receptionist went on to ask if I had a bone or gum problem? I said, “Well, I don’t know, I don’t think so..but I believe that because of the serious potential to have those kinds of problems, the NIH Dentist made the recommendation. With clear irritation in her voice, she said, “Hold on”.  I didn’t mind because music or no sound would be more pleasant than she. So for at least 5-7 mins. I held and she finally returned. Her response (said with a distinct note of sarcasm): “Well, if you don’t have a bone or gum problem, we can’t see you”!  On the one hand, I could be glad. I mean afterall, how many physicians take your money and don’t help you. On the other hand, Gee…the NIH Dentist was probably the most professional, well versed Dentist I have ever spoken to about Sjogren’s Syndrome. I felt very trusting of the information that she gave me and the recommendations that she made to me. If she strongly urged me to see a Periodontist, then it is probably a pretty good bet that I should follow up (especially since I am seeing some changes in my teeth).  So I decided to call my regular Dentist’s office back. I explained what I had been told. I also recalled that the NIH Dentist said I might possibly check with a University Dental School as they are more well versed about Sjogren’s more than many Dentists. My Dentist returned the call and I again went through the NIH visit and recommendations, as well as the call to the highly referred Periodontist. While my Dentist is not very familiar with Sjogren’s either, he at least offered to call the Dental School for me. As it turns out, the head of the Dental School Periodental Dept. was his colleague in school. So feeling a bit better about a Periodontist possibility…I again called my (now I’m snarling…) lovely insurance provider. I asked the customer service rep if going to a Dental School would be covered in my plan? She asked me: “What’s the Doctor’s name”? I said, “Well I don’t know..because it is a school &  a patient is assigned to a resident”. Her response: “Ohhh..well I wouldn’t go there then”. Thanks for the absent Customer Service and Non-Answer! Was that experience the “end of the world” or even an annoyance of epic proportions? No, not really. I just think that is very indicative of a growing standard of apathy that we see with many health care/insurance service providers. We are all very grateful when we have a positive care-giving experience by a doctor or their staff. But I think that for us “unhealthy” folks, we have a much larger number of doctor/dentist visits than the population at large and are therefore, more exposed to these kinds of negative experiences. I would like to think that maybe I am the only one that has been the unlucky recipient of these kinds of siutations but somehow I don’t think I am. I think that it would make our health care journey so much less bumpy and stress-producing if doctor’s and their staff’s and other health care providers made compassion and caring mandatory in the workplac (especially toward their patients).


About vitalsignspgh

Sandy Burkett is the Creative Engineer, President and Owner of Vital Signs. Vital Signs is a certified Native American/Woman-Owned custom sign and graphics company located in Carnegie, PA.
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