Saturday, November 20, 2010

Doctor Drama

We have had the same doctoress for Ada and Iain their whole lives. I started out with a different doctoress who left the practice four years ago and our current doctoress took over from there. I never had more than one doctor growing up in a small town so it was a bit of a shock to learn that I needed a different doctoress to deliver my children. And when the hospital asked who Ada's pediatrician would be I just defaulted to my doctoress. I didn't know anything different. 

With all of Ada's colds and episodes of throwing up, which we now believed was reflux, I started to question our doctoress' skills as a pediatrician. I asked several friends about their experiences with their pediatricians and found a few recommendations. I really wasn't happy with how our doctor's office handled things administratively either so I was excited to switch things up.

Several friends recommended the same pediatrics office near our house so I called to get us in. My first attempt failed as they were booked and only took new patients for wellness visits. I toughed it out with our regular doctoress another month and then called back to make wellness appointments for both kids. I scheduled Iain a month in advance and ordered a copy of his medical records a week later. Rick faxed the request from his office and learned two weeks later that the fax didn't ever go through. He called to expedite the process and offered to pick up the copied records or have them faxed, but was told nothing could be done since the office used an outside copying service on Tuesdays. They assured him that if the records were copied that Tuesday, they would be mailed and likely arrive in time for Iain's appointment that Thursday. As the eternal optimist that I am, I hoped the medical records would magically appear in time, but they didn't and I had to cancel Iain's appointment. The receptionist at the new pediatrician's office rescheduled me for the following Monday morning at nine. Hoping the records arrived in Saturday's mail, I kept the appointment only to have to cancel it at nine-fifteen on Monday, since they didn't open until nine and they made it clear they wouldn't see Iain without his medical records. And he was sick on top of everything else so it wouldn't really have been a wellness visit anyway.

Two-and-a-half weeks passed before the records arrived in our mailbox. It turned out that they weren't ever copied the first time and then when they were finally copied the next week, they were sent to Atlanta for processing and mailed to me in Chicago from Atlanta. Seriously? Seriously. Because that must have been the most effective and efficient way to get this done. Obviously. 

When I called with the medical records in hand to get Iain rescheduled, the office manager started to give me a hard time and I was almost in tears. After all I had been through to get the medical records, she wasn't going to give me an appointment since I cancelled the two that they did give me previously. After explaining the situation, she squeezed me in and emphasised the need for me to be there early. I thanked her profusely and quickly found a friend to watch Ada so Iain and I could go.

Then a few mom friends recommended I try to get Ada tested for early childhood development intervention since her language skills were a bit delayed compared to her friends. We have been concerned about her communication skills for two years now but everyone told us it was due to her being so big and her body was busy growing. All of a sudden, it was urgent I got her checked out since the assistance program through the Chicago Public Schools stops when she turns three--which was in one month.

In speaking with two other moms who had been through this process, they suggested I call our doctoress, she would give me a referral, Ada would get evaluated and start therapy if needed. Easy right? Never. I called our doctoress and she wanted to evaluate Ada in person instead of giving us a referral. Why? I didn't know. She wasn't a childhood development expert. She clearly had no idea how much effort went into me getting the kids down to her office.

First, I made the appointment for four in the afternoon to maximize Ada's nap. I put her down at one-thirty and had to wake her up at three-thirty to get to the appointment on time. Both kids screamed as I got them into the car and drove to the doctoress' office--one major reason I wanted to change physicians was the proximity of the new peditricians' office since being able to walk to the doctor is a big benefit when your toddler suffered from motion sickness. The kids cried on and off until we arrived. We got into the exam room and the doctoress examined Ada to make sure her cold was completely gone, said she thought Ada did need speech therapy (shock), and didn't seem to know who to refer us to. She also forgot that we needed to get a hearing test to go with the referral until I mentioned that my mom was worried about Ada's hearing. She also didn't mention anything about Ada getting a flu shot while we were there, but thankfully her nurse did.

We walked out of there with referrals for three different speech therapy evaluation services, including the one my friends suggested that I had to specifically request since it was for low income families typically and I'm apparently too affluent for my doctoress to think I'd want to utilize the free services available to my child. Her lack of knowledge on the subject erased any doubts I had previously about switching doctors.

She really got me when she said, "Well, you have insurance that will cover this."
I said, "Yeah. But next year we are switching to an HSA."
And she replied, "What's that?"
I expected that my doctor knew what a Health Savings Account was and how it worked. It was, after all, a key component of how she got paid.

Once we left the office, I went to pick up my husband and our friend Bob from work downtown for a game night at our house. Two blocks from home, Ada got car sick and started throwing up in the back seat. Rick tried to catch it and just ended up with puke on his hands. Iain was screaming and Bob asked if he should just go home since we had our hands full.

I pulled over to unload the kids from the car and told Rick to get Ada since he was already covered in vomit. Bob offered to park the car and met us inside. Rick went to shake the vomit from his hands before he got Ada from the car and ended up shaking off his wedding ring. I heard it ping against the ground as it rolled through the dark past my feet on the sidewalk. My heart sank. Luckily, Rick found it next to the back tire of the car when he walked around to get Ada.

Bob parked and we got the kids cleaned up and settled down when Rick noticed the diamond from his ring was missing. We tried to find it on the sidewalk near the loading zone with no luck. It was gone.

To add insult to injury, once I get Ada's hearing tested and speech screened, they will send the results to her current doctor and...I'll have to have those new medical records sent to her new pediatrician.

Moral of the story: As soon as you get pregnant, start searching for a qualified pediatrician. Location, proximity, doctor's qualifications, responsiveness of the practice, tendency to medicate liberally or conservatively, and size of the practice should all be considered. Save yourself future headaches by getting it right the first time. 

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