I arrived at The Doctors Clinic (they omit the apostrophe, so I guess the doctors don’t own it) for my blood draw a week before my regular check-up. At the front desk, I noticed that they had acquired new monitors and keyboards since the last time I was there. Even though that was more than a year ago, those things catch my attention.
In addition to my name and insurance card, I offered the survey that I had filled out prior to my exam. But the nice lady at the desk replied, “Bring that with you to your appointment. We can’t take that now.”
I guess my puzzled expression must have had “Why not?” written all over it, because she continued to explain.
“We don’t have paper files anymore – it’s all electronic. We’d have no place to keep it. The doctor will want to read it when you’re here, and then we’ll scan it into your file.”
So, they can’t scan it in now because the doctor wants to read it on hardcopy? Sounds to me like the whole digital records concept is meeting with some physician resistance. Or maybe it just doesn’t work that well. Perhaps the doctor likes to hold these things in his hand and read them as he’s walking between examining rooms, but he can’t get to them from his mobile device. Or maybe it’s just institutional lag and they’re still getting used to the idea of not having permanent paper files before they take the next step. Or perhaps they just don’t want to be bothered with it right now, because that’s not The Way They Do Things.
Ideally, even the originating document shouldn’t be on paper – they should have a secure web site where I can fill out the survey instead. For patients that don’t have an Internet connection, make them sit down and fill it in at a workstation in the doctor’s office. You’d only need one, in a private room – if there’s a waiting line for it, remind them that they could access it from home if they had Internet service.
I took a seat in the lab’s waiting room, along with more people than usual – about a dozen. The nurse apologized in advance for the wait, which turned out to be only about fifteen minutes. I overheard a lady telling her husband about a friend of hers who had to wait for a whole hour at the doctor’s office – boy was she mad.
When I was a kid, our little one-stoplight town also had only one doctor’s office run by two brothers – the Drs. Bond (neither one named James). Although the town was only a mile across, the Bonds also served the surrounding county. Almost every time I had to see the doctor as a child, the waiting room was so full that quite a few people had to stand. I don’t know how my memory colors the perception, but it seemed that we often waited for most of the day. If it hadn’t been for Highlights magazine, I would have driven my mother crazy.
The nurse who intended to pierce my vein and take my blood called me back into her torture chamber. She greeted me with a smile and asked, “Are you hungry?” This was her way of insuring that I had followed the directions to fast for 12 hours prior to the draw, but it confused me initially.
“Yeah, I usually eat before this time of day, so I am getting a bit hungry.”
“I don’t usually eat breakfast myself,” she replied, “but today my husband made me the best breakfast – pancakes and bacon! It was delicious! The pancakes were hot and buttery, and the bacon was crisp and thin, just how I like it.” My stomach registered its approval of her menu with a sad groan. On and on she went, while tying the tourniquet and inserting the needle. I couldn’t help noticing that her rather large body didn’t need the addition of pancakes and bacon. How can someone in the medical profession let themselves go like that? I was also a little put off by her thoughtlessness, talking about food to a hungry man. Maybe she was trying to get my veins to pop out.