I called my doctor's office to deal with a timely and serious medication issue and to send recent abnormal test results. I was doing what I was supposed to do--responsibly addressing and coordinating my own medical care between doctors' offices. The story in brief is that the administrator on the phone repeatedly scolded me for calling the phone number that I did. She kept repeating, "do not ever call on this number it is for emergencies and for physicians." I explained that this is the phone number that my internist has specifically given me to call. (Not to mention that my internist has also given me her cell phone number and direct email and there is good reason for this. She has told me I am one of her most complicated and sickest patients.)
Despite my best efforts to relay the instructions my doctor had given me, it was no use--the scolding just continued. When I was finally able to relay the reason for my call, which was nearly impossible because the administrator was trying to get me off the phone as quickly as she could, she again repeated that I was never to call this number again. I felt as if I was being treated like a child who is told she had misbehaved. Not surprisingly, the administrator did not help me with either of the two issues I was calling about.
The reason I see this internist is because she takes my health problems seriously, is responsive and compassionate, and encourages me to be in touch. But this administrator clearly finds my interaction and communication with the physician bothersome. I wish that I was not sick and did not require ongoing medical care.
The last thing most people want to do is be involved with a physician's office. The people who work there should serve as a kind and a effective conduit between patient and doctor, making what is often an unpleasant experience better. While this is not always the case, I have found that some administrators in physicians' offices seem to relish serving as a barrier between patients and doctors. They are officious as opposed to helping patients.
I am sure this administrator's work is not always pleasant since it requires dealing with anxious and upset patients at times. But that is the nature of the job. A helpful and friendly staff member behind the front desk or on the phone at a physician's office can make a huge difference for patients and their families.
As a patient, our best recourse is to file a complaint when we are treated poorly and if the situation is bad enough to leave the doctor's practice. The next time I see my internist, I will tell her about my interaction with this staff member. Doctors are in charge of their offices and it is their responsibility to make sure those who work for them do their job well. In my opinion, there is a real problem in the culture of healthcare when patients, the consumers of healthcare and those who are sick, are treated as the enemy.