Monday, March 21, 2011

Speaking Up & Turning A Negative Patient Experience Into A Positive Result

JDRF's Government Day was all about learning and advocating for people with diabetes in regards to our government and funding - And as we all know, advocating for diabetes is a wonderful and necessary thing.

As a Diabetes Patient Advocate I'm all about speaking up for people with diabetes, including myself.

And a big mouth D Advocate like me normally has no problem speaking up for myself or others, and I speak up quick, just ask Rikki Lake's publicist! But I'll admit it, when it came to my last Eye Specialist appointment, I was a big old procrastinator when it came to speaking up to the powers that be.

Still, I spoke up, and my voice was heard.

My first post of 2011 was all about "reigniting the diabetes spark" when it comes to my good health. I wrote about diabetes burnout and my new Eye Specialist, who neglected to read my chart and treated me like crap. I vowed to let his practice know the 4-1-1 and refused to go back, even though I had scheduled a follow up on March 19th.

Life got busy, work got hectic and low and behold, somehow my a1c dropped from 7.4 to 7.0.
My Endo was thrilled, and so was I! As my Endo and I caught up on what was going on with me, I told him about the Eye Specialist's piss poor patient attitude, and my Endo told me to drop him - Did I ever mention how much I HEART my endo?

Still, I never picked up the phone re: my appointment/experience. I went to JDRF Government Day, learned about the latest and greatest in diabetes research and technology, participated in a panel discussion, and charged up Capital Hill to meet with PA and NJ state reps on the importance of Diabetes funding - More on Government Day tomorrow.

I came home from DC tired, but filled with passion and hope. On Wednesday morning my cell phone rang, and it was a recorded message from my Eye Specialists office reminding me of my appointment on Friday.
I called them back and was connected to a Customer Service Rep (who will be referred to CR for the rest of this post) My eye Specialist is part of The Wills Eye Hospital - and customer service is key!

Here's what went down.

Sidebar: The name of the Idiot Eye Specialist has been changed.

Me; Hi, My name is Kelly Kunik & I'm calling about my appointment with Dr. Shit For Brains.
CR: Hi, Kelly - Yes, I see you're scheduled for an 8 am appointment with Dr. Shit For Brains, what can I do for you.
Me: Well, while I appreciate and love your practice, I will not be coming back if I have to see Dr. Shit For Brains.
CR: WHY?Me: Well, here's the thing. I'm a patient, and as I patient, I should be given certain courtesies.  Extravagant courtesies like having my new Dr. actually read my chart before he comes in the exam room to see me. Last year I had a 1 in a million non-diabetes related eye problem that rocked my world  And Dr. M was wonderful! I saw him a total of 10 times in one year and he really helped me overcome the shitstorm brought on by my 1 in a million status.

Unfortunately and as you well know, Dr. M passed away. So if the whole 1 in a million non diabetes related eye thing wasn't enough, loosing a kind, caring and on the ball Eye Specialist was horrible. Still, I agreed to see his replacement because I know how important it is for me to see an Eye Specialist, both diabetically speaking - AND 1 in a million speaking.

Then, Dr. Shit For Brains walks into my exam room, and says "OH MY GOD, YOU"RE SO YOUNG!" Then when I asked him if he'd read my file, his response was: Well, no. I just saw Ocular Occlusion and diabetic and just assumed.....
He was rude, he yelled at me when I became scared when he mentioned something about a small pinhole hemorrhage. At that point my voice cracked and professionalism went out the window and I may have said something to the CR along the lines of: HE'S A TOTAL DICK.
CR: I'M SO SORRY. If it's OK, I'd like to talk to a person in our Advisory office and have her get back to you.
Me: OK, that would be great.

And you know what? The Advisory person called me back that afternoon. Of course I missed the call and had to wait until Friday when she was back in the office that I go to, but she called me back on Friday...... AND SHE WAS WONDERFUL.
Advisory Person: Kelly I'm so sorry that you such a horrific experience.
Me: Thanks, me too.
Advisory Person: If you'd be willing to give us another chance, I'd like you to see another one of our specialists, who is loved by his patients - and who loves his patients.
Me: I would. Look, I know I can't not go to the Eye Specialist. My health and my vision depend on it. BUT, Dr. Shit For Brains really needs to take a class on communicating with the patient because he has absolutely no bedside manner! I don't care how many letters he has after his name, he needs to be more empathetic to his patients!
Advisory Person: I agree.
Me: I'm a Diabetes Patient Advocate and I'm all about Patients needs and rights. Do you realize how much stress plays a factor in leading up to our appointment? We are scared, we are nervous, and personally, I get stomach issues for a week leading up to my eye appointment. It's Pavlovian, I think Eye Exam and all of a sudden I get queasy. But my health requires I go and like it or not, I do. 
But I will not see him again.
But some people will walk out of the office after an experience like that  and THEY WILL NEVER GO BACK. That doesn't just hurt your bottom line, but it seriously affects that person's health and well being. The damage that could occur by not returning would be devestating!
Advisory Person: I remember you!! You're the diabetes blogger, right? I absolutely agree re: the devistation that such behavior has on the patient. I don't blame you, Kelly. 
Please, when we reschedule an appointment for you, tell the front desk and your new Eye Doctor exactly what happened - they need to know.
Me: Oh, I will - And thank-you!
Advisory Person: Let's get you on the books ASAP, and once again Kelly, I'm so sorry you had to such a painful experience.

So the appointment is for April 6th, and while I'm still nervous and scared and have a bottle of malox all ready for the days leading up to my appointment, I'm happy to report that this Patient feels empowered and hopeful - AND THAT'S A WONDERFUL THING.

Tommorrow- The 4-1-1 on JDRF Government Day ~


Kim said...

I think YOU'RE a wonderful thing, Kelly. That's so wonderful that they followed up - and LISTENED!

Cara said...

You rock Kelly! I'm so glad you made the decision to stand up for yourself. You stand up for us so often, so I'm glad you let the doc's office know that you expect a kind, caring, compassionate doctor.

Anonymous said...

You so rock, Kelly! Thanks for doing what you do and raising your voice - no matter the setting. Glad there's someone else there and hopefully has more of a bedside manner than.. the "other one." You're absolutely right: we deserve at least that.

Meri said...

Kelly, I am so proud of you! Stepping out of our comfort zone is so hard! But you did it girl! You are a TRUE advocate! Love you!

PS thanks for disclosing you changed the eye doctors name...I would never had known! :)

Renata said...

Awesome, way to go Kel. Not only for other patients...but for you. Way to go.

Penny said...

This is why I love you so Kel - you go girl! You are so right on to tell the CR and the AP all about the doctor from hell. Maybe it will actually get back to that dr., which would be good for him!

Hallie Addington said...

Wait.... His name ISN'T Dr Shit for Brains? I was confused.... Because Dr Shit for Brains WAS our dentist... Who had no clue about diabetes and small children and fear... Don' t get me started.

So glad to hear how nice they were and I am so hoping that your new Doc is Dr Awesome!!

Unknown said...

So, I am focused on the word "DICK". I was just thinking today how I have never used it blogging and am so uber-impressed at your ability to work it in here...and...justifiably so. GREAT JOB KEL!

I cannot wait to hear about the 4/6 appointment. I hope that this new doc does not disappoint. You are one in a million.

Minnesota Nice said...

About ten years ago, I was referred to a retinal specialist from my general opthalmologist. I was sitting in the exam room and a man comes in, flips open my chart and says "this is one big mess". I said, "who are you?" He replied that he was Dr. M.
My vitrectomy was scheduled and he explained that it would be a local anesthetic with sedation. When I got to the day surgery center, they said the chart said "general anesthesia". I argued with them for several minutes until Dr. M. came in and said he had changed the orders without telling me because I was "too emotional".
Unfortunately this guy was the only r. specialist in my clinic system, so I had to stay with him for several years. Then he finally got an associate and she and I get along great.

Unknown said...

This kind of post encourages me to email the practice where I go for my regular doctor appointments so I can complain about the doctor who brought up diabetic gastroparesis for some stomach pains that she couldn't pinpoint just from talking to me.

Thanks for being an awesome advocate and thanks to the Wills Eye Hospital for being so committed to keeping you as a patient and making sure you get the respect you deserve.

Rachel said...

You go girl!

I still hate the fact that my former PCP left the state before I could show her that I could do an awesome job of type 2 diabetes instead of her throwing me a prescription of metformin and NO prescription for test strips or free offer of a my endo eventually did.

Jill said...

Kelly, you are so great! I showed it to my son (the 17 year old with T1) who cracked up at exactly the point that I did! I am going to unlearn being a doormat at your feet, thank you.

Heidi / D-Tales said...

Way to go, speaking up and advocating for yourself! :) And, how fantastic that the CR and AP listened and helped! Perhaps you're not the only patient to complain about Dr. Shit For Brains!