Adventures in patient advocacy

My father has been ill over the past few months and I have become his health care advocate.  I have taken him to all kinds of doctors and we have worked our way through what feels like a maze of healthcare providers.

NEMT President Linda Allard

I must admit I’m a medical records geek, so whenever I am with him I always eagerly look at the system the facility is using.  Are they using an EMR?  Are they dictating or using a template system?  All of this is done in front of the patient.

Last week we had to add an urgent appointment on the same day we had another appointment already scheduled.  Off we headed to doctor number one who was redoing their system and needed some new paperwork filled out.  Unfortunately, no real explanation was given to my father and I could see he was frustrated with answering a lot of questions for a doctor he had just seen about 2 weeks previously.  My takeaway from that was that maybe some training for the staff about helping the patients understand why they need to redo all their information would go a long way toward making the patients feel better.  I think it would make the process easier for the staff as well, since they wouldn’t have to answer so many questions because they didn’t explain the reason for the extra paperwork.

Once we finished with doctor number one, we were off to see doctor number two. Both doctors belong to the same healthcare system and access information in the same EMR.  When I arrived at doctor number two’s office, he also had additional paperwork since they are all on the same system.  By this time my father just handed it to me and asked me to fill it out.

One of the papers at the bottom wanted me to sign saying I had received the privacy agreement.  The problem was that nowhere in the papers we were given was there a privacy agreement.  When I asked for it as they wanted me to sign that I had received it, no one was able to provide me with one.  I, of course, didn’t sign it, and no one questioned me about it.

In we went to see the doctor, and the nurse logs into the system looking for my dad’s information to verify his medications.  Unfortunately, doctor’s office number one apparently still had the document open, so doctor number two couldn’t open it to verify the medication.  Now we had a real problem as this doctor was going to need to make medication adjustments and the previous doctor had prescribed some new ones.

Did I mention that I’m a medical records geek?  I also am my father’s advocate, so I had already made the previous doctor and my father’s assisted living facility provide me with the medications list.  I carry a copy with me whenever I go.  I also had a copy of the new medications provided that day.  The nurse was very relieved and made copies so they could move on with the appointment.

All-in-all my father has fabulous doctors and he is receiving excellent medical care.  The concern I have is how about many patients really understand what they are signing and whether they receive the papers they should.  How many carry all their records with them and isn’t that what the EMR is supposed to prevent the need for?  We have all come a long way, but we certainly we have a long way to go.

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About Linda Allard

Linda Allard is the president of NEMT.
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