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New Medical Games in Kentucky?

What role are some physicians playing in this health care fiasco game?  Well I know about one doctor and one hospital playing some kind of game with a Medicare patient in a small town in Kentucky…or so it seems to me.

I wrote this as a COPD and Other Stuff blog post but a Letter to the Editor caught my eye. and I posted it in two parts there.

As a COPDer (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) teamed with Sarcoidosis, I’ve gotten copies of my Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) print-outs for over a decade.   It is standard.   Take the test, get a print-out.   My doctors are wonderful and I supposed other doctors had the same ethics and took the same care of their patients.   Now I wonder.

An old friend lives in a small town in Kentucky – a place I’ve googled and then scrolled the streets from my computer – thanks to Google’s trike and camera carrying rider – and I’ve enjoyed seeing what a wonderful, historic, town it is.

Over the past fifty years I’ve visited my family friend in other small and large towns in Kentucky and highly enjoyed the horses, farms and people I’ve met there.

Recently my friend (call her Sarah) had Pulmonary Function Tests done on 11 August 2011 but was not given a copy of the test result printouts.   She was told someone had to read the results and she would get a call within two weeks.

Twenty-nine days passed without a call.   I suggested she contact the hospital and doctor’s offices and I, myself, made a few calls.   The first one was to the local newspaper to check and see if local people were being medically scammed, then to the hospital where I explained the problem and asked their procedure and was told the doctor had all the information.  I asked for the doctor’s number and she said she could just transfer me.   I thanked her and soon spoke to a member of the doctor’s staff.   The woman told me the information was still with the hospital, where the test was done and seemed surprised when I related that the hospital said the doctor had the results.

Sometime during the phone conversations, Sarah called to tell me that the hospital told her to call them ‘tomorrow’ between 3 and 4 PM and they would have the test results then.

I had told her to call them repeatedly until she got answers.   Based on my experience with PFT results the hospital and doctors office lack of information was inexcusable.   On one occasion, the doctor’s office advised me that a cardiologist had to read the results.   I was astounded that no pulmonologist seemed to be involved and I carefully explained to her that one of the country’s leading pulmonologists was right there in Lexington.   At that point, we lost the connection and I hung up.

Later (that day), Sarah called to advise that the hospital not only had the test results now but that she could pick up that day; she was also told that she had been scheduled for both echo- and an electro-cardiogram tests.  She was not told why the additional tests were belatedly ordered, but that they were ordered by the same doctor who ordered the original PFT!  “The same doctor who hasn’t bothered to contact you about the PFT’s?”,  I asked…

I suggested that she go the University of  Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington and have the tests run by people who knew what they are doing.   She agreed with me – she wanted the best.  At least, that was then.

This morning (Monday, 9/119/2011) she called to tell me she just completed the tests, and I asked her where?  “In the same hospital,” she said, “where the technician told her Dr. xxxxxxx was just too good – that his front office people all needed to be fired.  And when I see the doctor I’ll have a few things to say to him!”

I did not suggest she had no guarantee the seemingly incompetent greedy doctor would even bother calling her.  He had her take the tests he ordered, presumably billing Medicare, and I was speechless at her behavior.   For one of the rare times in my life…  I had nothing to say.

I intend to contact the American Medical Association and give them the full particulars, including names because something is very wrong when a doctor doesn’t contact a poor Medicare patient for at least 29 days after the testing when she was told she’d be provided with the results within two weeks.  Even two weeks is an absurdly long time when other lung patients, using other doctors, often get copies before exiting the appointment at which such tests are administered.

So tell me, is someone working the system or am I overreacting to apparent incompetence or graft?  The patient or the doctor?

Thanks for reading… Sharon O’Hara

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