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Part 3: The good people.

How ’bout a happier story?

Background:  One of my colleagues left our practice a couple weeks ago.  It was a good opportunity for her – she wanted an easier commute, and she wanted to be able to arrange her work hours better around her kids’ hours.  She also is someone who doesn’t much like technology and we’re an increasingly technology-driven practice. One of her old friends (someone I trained with, actually) had more work than she could handle at her practice, so my ex-colleague (let’s call her EC) joined that practice.

Because EC’s new practice is quite a distance from us, many (most) of her old patients have decided to stay with us. So we’ve all been meeting her long-time, loyal patients, who are all sad she left. To make things worse, looks like she got a bit behind on some paperwork near the end and a couple of things got delayed, as far as communicating with patients in a reasonable timeframe.

Which brings us to my experience today.

One of her patients was undergoing pre-operative workup for elective surgery. She’d come in a couple weeks ago, and a chest Xray and EKG were ordered – but the EKG was a little atypical so she was sent on to have a stress test. There’s where things fell apart.  She had the stress test a couple days before EC left.  It was interpreted by the cardiologist and he sent a nice report about the result – which wasn’t normal – to EC’s in-box. Where it apparently got ignored.  After her final day we set things up so things being sent to EC’s box got re-routed into one of our boxes… but we’d (foolishly) assumed she left a clean box on her last day.

So several days after that, we get an irritated call from the patient.  The surgeon hasn’t gotten the clearance note for the surgery, she says, and it’s scheduled for early next week so could we please get our act together? I received this day before yesterday, take a look at her chart and see this note saying she may have early-onset heart disease and needs more evaluation of this before we put her under anesthesia. So I ask a nurse to call and get her in to see me ASAP.  We got ahold of her this AM (after two days phone tag) and she came in this afternoon.

So here’s this poor woman who is getting the terrible news that she’s probably got a faulty heart.  And learning that because of this she will have to delay the surgery which was already scheduled (as well as the vacation time off work, family support to help her recover, etc, etc). And that “we” had this info for several days and didn’t contact her until she contacted us first. She was understandably grumpy. She expressed her grumpiness (politely, but undeniably grumpily) and I did my best to explain what happened and what things I could do to try to expedite things now.  But she was clearly not pleased with me as she left.

So… a couple hours later there appears a message on my inbox.  Please call the patient, it says – doesn’t want to talk to someone else, I need to call her.  I was busy with other patients and I try to prioritize the scheduled stuff over the incoming phone stuff so I had someone call back to explain that I was in with patients, so I’d not be calling back until the end of the business day… but if she wanted to tell us her question perhaps I could have someone address it sooner?

The reply came back: Ms XXX just wanted to say that she was thinking about her behavior today in clinic and she’s afraid she wasn’t very nice to you – she wanted to apologize. She wants you to know that she usually tries to be a nicer person than that and she hopes you’ll forgive her”.

Aaaaaaaw.  My faith in humanity is restored. Maybe I’ll stay in the profession awhile longer.


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