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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Problem With Healthcare

Oh, Woman-I-Haven’t-Met. I know your name. I know you are skinnier than me and your breasts are perkier. I also know that you have nasty scoliosis of your spine. The doctors have known that since last year.

I know these things about a stranger because the medical profession seems to be more concerned with processing records and getting the paperwork out the door than they are with the patients. Plans are underway for me to go to a specialist in Cleveland for “my” adult scoliosis, to see if it might have something to do with my mobility issues. Except that the x-ray included in the packet with my MRI prints is not me. I discovered that this morning, so I can’t even stop the referral process until Monday.

After seeing the x-ray in the neurosurgeon’s office, I was a little freaked out. I saw a very curvy spine on the light box across the room. Even with my iffy eyesight, I could see that it was bad. I was a little in shock. I’d been tested for curvature of the spine when I was in middle school, no curve, no signs of one potentially starting. When I’d been in a car accident at almost 30 which compressed my lower spine, I had full back x-rays done and no sign of scoliosis. Now, here I was looking at a badly curved x-ray with my MRI print films.

This morning, I wanted to look at them again. I have three packets of prints. The set of prints I brought in for my appointment on Wednesday was incomplete. The chunk of the MRI pictures that warranted the most comments on the analysis sheet wasn’t there, but the spine x-ray that made my heart sink into my stomach was. When I looked today, the full set, that had all the pictures that were on the CD I took home was there and that x-ray with the scoliosis had been moved to in the new packet. I pulled it out and looked at the crooked spine. When I unfocused from the S-shaped curve, I noticed something wrong. I’m not that thin! My breasts are bigger and not anywhere hear that perky! Then I decided I’d see if there was a test number to compare and make sure the prints were all from the same test. Better than a number for matching, my MRI prints have my name, age and the date of the test. The information on the scoliosis x-ray was dated last year and included all the personal things I know about Woman-I-Haven’t Met!

I don’t know what part of this infuriates me the most. When I got the MRI done, I asked for a copy of it on disk for my records and a set of the prints on film for my neurosurgeon and a copy of the results sent to my doctor. They told me that because it was done digitally, they didn’t do prints, but the CD would be the same thing. My MRI was the end of the day on Friday. I think perhaps Happy Hour and the weekend had more to do with them not doing prints than the scan being done digitally. I had even expressed that the MRI I had done in January was done digitally, but I had to get prints to bring to the doctor. When I called the hospital on a weekday, there was no problem ordering the prints.

The problem with ordering the prints after-the-fact was that they were incomplete and had someone else’s x-ray in them. I have no idea who got the rest of the prints from my MRI, but I have someone else’s confidential medical information and there is confidential medical information of mine “somewhere.”

So the hospital screwed up. They screwed up by lying to me about whether or not they “did” the prints that the neurosurgeon requested, then they screwed up by putting only part of my MRI prints and someone else’s x-ray in my envelope. Again, I have no idea where the rest of the prints from my test are. But hey, the neurosurgeon viewed them twice, including the x-ray, with me sitting there and didn’t realize it wasn’t an x-ray of me.

Slow down! Read things and double check. Healthcare is dealing with very private matters and with people’s lives. Patients aren’t stupid, I’M not stupid, but when I’m presented with a terrible misshapen spine and told it’s me when I already have bulging disks in my lower back and major mobility issues, I want to be able to trust that the healthcare people, the ones who make a lot more money for their time than I ever have, are doing a careful job. When you’re sick, or getting tested for something unknown, if you’re in pain or getting stuffed into an enclosed tube for an MRI, you’re not on your mental “A-game.” It should be no problem to expect that you can trust those medical institutions with your health and safety.

What I do know is that I had to have patient advocate paperwork that we’d had done by Grandma’s lawyer to ask questions and get information when Grandma was in the hospital and when one of my best friends was dying, I couldn’t ask for information on his condition without John’s sister’s okay. I’m not happy about having a stranger’s information or that anyone else could have mine.

Woman-I-Haven’t-Met, I hope your x-ray gets into your doctor’s hands and they can do something to help you. I hope that whoever got my MRI prints finds out they have the wrong ones before they start to treat or test further for something they don’t need.


Edna B said...

Oh Gosh Nani. What a horrible scenario. But I know that you are right when you say that the health professionals making all the big bucks don't take the time to make sure they are careful with the patients.

I hope you sent a paper copy of your blog post to your doctors and the hospital to let them know how poorly they take care of the patient. It's really sad to think that we are merely part of little numbers that together make up a big paycheck. Nothing more.

I hope all unravels and gets straightened out quickly for you. I hope today is a better day for you. Hugs, Edna B.

seamhead gypsy said...

Sounds like a H.I.P.P.A. violation to me.