Slim and Franke

Slim and Franke
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Friday, May 04, 2012


We have multiple doctors:  PCP (Primary Care Physician); Cardiologist; Pulmonary Specialist; Urologist; Dermatologist; Cancer Care Physician; Gynecologist; Orthopedic Pain Specialist.  The majority of these offices have very prompt, courteous and efficient methods of dealing with our phone calls.  One, our PCP, has a terrible communication system.

Usually we get one of three receptionists who will attempt to answer our concern (though they are not RNs or LPNs or medical aides)  and then give us a long dissertation on how the insurance system works (or doesn't work) and then tells us the nurse will get back with us.  The nurse does not get back with us.  Occasionally the receptionist will put us on hold and we listen to Muzak until we can't stand it any longer and hang up.  This has to happen several times before we actually get the nurse who then repeats the dissertation on how the insurance system works that we already got from the receptionist.  Our question has nothing to do with the insurance system.  We can never get to the doctor between visits unless we have an emergency and then we are told to call 911.

We love our PCP but she has had five different nurses in the nine years we have been seeing her.  The one we liked was with her five years and the other four have been with her the next four years. We do not want to complain because we are not sure just who is to blame.  Yes we are not her only patients, but as far as we are concerned we ARE her only patients.  Know what I mean?

Is the staff at fault, is the doctor at fault or is the management company for this group of physicians at fault?  We do not want to change doctors but it could be our best alternative.  Then the question of "will we be any better off?" would remain.

Any suggestions?


  1. You bring up lots of issues with this post. It's almost scary that a receptionist is giving medical advice. An unqualified employee giving medical advice is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    If I was you, I would ask to speak to the office manager, tell your story, and voice your concerns. I would even follow up with a letter.

    I'm surprised at the turnover of nurses in such a short amount of time. Is the physician hard to work with? Physicians can be wonderful with patients but difficult with their staff. A high turnover in any "business" normally reflects problems within a company.

    Great questions.Sorry for your frustration.

  2. Marla and Steve makes some valid points. I am all set to blame the receptionists. They should know what is going on with their phones, especially if you are on hold forever. I know they get busy, but I work a multi-lined phone and any calls on hold blink. So they could at least check back to see if anyone has helped you yet. And the instructions about insurance? Well anymore, the insurance companies tell the doctors what they can and can't do according to your policy because the stockholders can't be losing money. Yes, insurance companies are owned by stockholders who hold our lives in their hands. So I'm sure the nurses and receptionists have been trained to give those spiels to try to save time and money. Can't say much about your doctor. In the past 10 years I've had two awesome doctors to help with my diabetes and they both left. So now I have to find a new doctor and that is no fun. Sorry for writing a book.

  3. It's the office manager's fault. Hopefully she wasn't the one giving the insurance spiel.

    We run into stuff like that calling for my mom and dad. Some offices are good and some are not. Most are hard to get a live person on right away.

  4. You should consider changing doctors, but there may be an issue with your PCP being so busy because there are few good choices. One of my first clues that an office is poorly run is lots of signs posted all over the walls and the walk-up window telling you what you cannot do and what you MUST do.

  5. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Having a medical condition is agony enough without dealing with inept service on top of it. Since you seem to need them, I'll keep my opinions of the medical community to myself:) they wouldnt help ya anyway..

    have a great weekend.

  6. Annie,

    I hesitate to tell you to leave this doctor because PCPs are all busy and overbooked and, as my old Irish Granny was fond of saying,
    "The Devil you know is better than the Devil you don't know."

    The one you switch to after a lot of form filling out and confusion could be worse!

  7. You need to write a personal and confidential letter to your doctor and explain the situation and see what she/he says first. Just a thought. sandie

  8. I've found that a precise question asked at the right time will break up the tide.
    Try saying to the receptionist, "I know the Dr is very busy, do you think we should look for a new Dr, can you recommend someone who might have time to take a call. This is very important, I need to know if it's okay to go ahead and shoot the ol guy?"
    If the response isn't appropriate for what you just said, then yes, find a new DR.

  9. i have been very fortunate with my doctor - who's wife is the receptionist and will have him call me with any concerns - i think he is a rare one and i hear more of your complaints than anything. The system has brought us to this ? What is the system? The one that makes a doctor less than he used to be?
    Maybe that is an answer.

  10. The healthcare system in this country is so broken. Sorry you're going through all of this.

  11. I used to always feel like I was going through a Doctor Mill in those offices- always being rushed thru like cattle...
    I changed pcps 3 times due to Insurance co changes n who they subscribe to. There is no difference in the system or how you're handled in it- These days you're lucky if the Doc remembers you!

  12. you have "touched a nerve" as they say. I could go on and on about my experiences which are similar. Maybe I'll write a post about. I have never found a physicians office that gives me quality care or follow up. ever.

  13. Marla and Steve -- Wow, long-time-no-see. I'll have to go see what you have posted lately. I have really lost track. I agree about the receptionists giving medical advice. I also don't know if I'm that keen on them having so much computer access to our accounts. They can call up all the information from our recent visit and reference them. Our PCP is in a small group of doctors and they are owned by a large corporation so I think that compounds all the issues.

    Bonnie -- That thing about being left on hold troubles me also. When I was in the office workplace our operators knew to never leave a customer holding without checking back frequently.

    Lynn -- You are right but I'm not sure how to get ahold of the office manager or even who that might be.

    Tabor -- It is past time for us to change doctors especially since we have to travel so far to see her, but I must add that she has always been especially tuned to Ron's concerns and basically if it wasn't for her overall knowledge of his health, we might not have caught his cancer so quickly. Once we get to her, all is well. It's just getting to her.

    sonny -- Come on, sock it to me. I think I would probably love your opinion of the medical profession.

    Nancy -- You are so right about "the devil we don't know". That is what scares me most about making a change.

    Chatty Crone -- I have often considered the personal and confidential letter and am thinking I just might work on that today. Thanks for the push.

    Cliff -- I am pretty sure that, like Ron, you get the office staff laughing and they give you service on a silver platter. If only Ron could hear on the phone he could handle this and we wouldn't have any problems. However, once he did lose his cool when he was calling about me and some health concerns after my heart attack and they kept putting him on hold so he used some very colorful language and the doctor FIRED us both as patients that day. YIKES!

    Whitemist -- Wow, it sounds like you see an actual Mom and Pop office and that makes a big difference. You get good treatment because they are not too big or their britches.

    Riot Kitty -- Broken, shattered, crumbling and hanging on by a thread.

    Snaggle Tooth --You are so right and yes, we are among the lucky ones that our doctor knows and remembers. I may be re-thinking all my complaints

    Seriously Though -- Hello, hello. Good to see you again. I think I lost you somewhere in my quest for the 2000 posts. I believe that I touched a lot o nerves and somehow it helps to know I'm not alone in this big mess.

  14. If you're having such a battle in talking to the doctor in between visits, then it is definitely time to change PCP's.

    I will grant the point that some doctors are exceptionally busy, but at least with my PCP, I know that if I leave a message at his office looking for an answer to a medical question, I will get an answer before the end of the day for it.

    If your doctor can't seem to be bothered in returning your call, then it's time to change doctors.

    Also, I've never heard of non-medical receptionists answering medical related questions. All of the receptionists that I've dealt with have some type of medical background that qualifies them to intelligently answer medical questions.

  15. G.B.Miller -- I actually asked the receptionist what her medical qualifications were and those of the other two receptionists, and she told me they had no medical training and were only office workers. I then asked her if she didn't feel a bit burdened by all the responsibility they placed on her an I honestly believe this had never occurred to her before.