Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Medical Experience

On a previous rant I wrote about a fall that resulted in my ending up in Urgent Care on Thanksgiving day. Some of my followers told me to stay upright this Thanksgiving. Oh, if only I had heeded their wish. I am beginning to think that the holiday is jinxed for me. Next year I think I will sit Thanksgiving out because I ended up in the hospital for surgery this time.

I am sure that a recap of my hospitalization and rehab would bore even the most medically interested person. I will try to avoid being too graphic and only hit the salient points that apply to my soapbox issue on changing the medical system.

The first thing that impressed me was the reams of paper that crossed my bed. I cannot begin to remember all of the many, many forms I had to sign. They were followed by enough information pages to keep me occupied for a week. Dull, legal garbage designed to protect the providers from lawsuits and to inform me of my rights should I feel that I had been treated unfairly. I had a file folder bulging with these papers.

How many lawyers, secretaries, administrators, and other office help do you think it took to compile this huge amount of paper work? When you realize that this was for
just one illness and you multiply it by millions you begin to get a picture of the expense that helps drive up the cost of our medical system. My illness only involved one insurance company, one hospital, and one rehab center. When you think about how many insurance companies have their own set of papers to distribute, you begin to realize how the administrative cost of each illness adds up.

Since returning home my mail box has been stuffed with additional papers from my HMO pertaining to my hospitalization. It’s enough to make your head swim.

A single payer system would have one universal set of rules and an information packet that would apply to all medical needs. There would be no need to repeat the dissemination of information each time the patient needed treatment.

Another flaw in the system is the lack of communication. There are so many people involved in your care and they each have their job and often don’t have a clue as to what the others are doing for you or what your needs might be. Years ago when you were hospitalized a chart hung at the foot of your bed with information on your medication, vital signs, and other necessary information. I don’t know where the information on my care was kept, but the floor people didn’t read it.

An example: for a week the care givers pricked my finger for blood. I finally asked what this test was for and was told it was to check my blood sugar level. I told them I was not diabetic, but the test continued until my doctor stopped it after I told him about it. (Remember, I was lucky to have my doctor see me since he had not been notified that I had broken my hip.) This is only one example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

I had a great deal of trouble getting to sleep. When I finally achieved the deep REM stage of sleep I would be awakened to take my blood pressure and temperature. After they took my vitals I was wide awake and unable to return to sleep. I complained to four nurses who left four orders before the floor aid finally stopped waking me up. I was getting very irritated by the fourth night. When I inquired about the reason for doing this in the middle of the night I was told that it was because the day people were busy and the night people had more time. Therefore, some tasks were assigned to them. What about the patient’s needs? I guess if we didn’t complain it was fine.

I believe my biggest complaint with the system is the shortage of floor personnel. I realize this is probably universal and we must live with it, but when you have to wait two hours to have a pain pill brought to you, as I did, or two hours to be helped to the commode it does not make for a pleasant recovery.

In all fairness I have to admit that my care was, on the whole, excellent. The food at the rehab center was worthy of a gourmet restaurant. I really miss those delicious trays that appeared three times daily. I was fortunate that I was transferred from the hospital to one of the best rehab centers in Tucson. It was a combination rehab center and assisted living facility and was, therefore, a very pleasant place.

I advise anyone that has to be hospitalized to designate an advocate to speak for you. When you are in pain and highly medicated you need someone to oversee your care. When my children were here for a few days they were vocal about my care, but when they left after seeing me settled in rehab I was on my own. Good friends filled the gap and provided the outside help I needed, but for my personal care I had to speak up.


Can someone please tell me why, if I compose a draft somewhere else and then copy it to my blog, I end up with underlining? I cannot eliminate it without retyping the whole post. Arrrgh!!!


Rinkly Rimes said...

I have one of your problems (the underlining) but not all the others, thank goodness!

20th Century Woman said...

So glad you are feeling well enough to rant. I agree with all that you say about the medical system. I believe that a single payer plan could save a lot administrative costs. But Barack Obama says that a lot of people work in the insurance industry and they need jobs! What kind of logic is that? I think that one big problem is the increasing impersonalization of the medical world. I posted a piece in my blog which was esentially about that. It is called "Waiting."

On the other problem, my daughter, who is my advisor on computer stuff says that if she writes in Notepad she doesn't get those unwanted things like underlining, but she does if she writes in word. However, if you write in Notepad you may have to take out all the HTML tags.

Rain said...

I don't get underlining but have noticed it often loses formatting. What I do is put it into edit mode instead of compose (at the top of your box) and then you can see the codes and remove the ones you do not want.

Your experiences made good reading and hopefully some who make those kind of care decisions will also read them. It's good you have recovered so well. Happy New Year

Grannymar said...

Darlene I finally got through, thanks to youe email link. Thankfully you were well enough to fill in those forms and to make your voice heard.

Stay well and I hope that you keep improving with each day.

Darlene said...

Rinkly Rimes, please stay on your feet. I would never wish my problems on anyone else.

20th Century Woman, Thank you for visiting my blog. I will read your blog on "Waiting". thank's to your daughter on the tip. I will try to compose in Notepad next time.

Rain, I just sent you an e-mail but it came back as undeliverable. I wanted to ask you how your brother is doing? I sent good thoughts his way and hope the treatment is successful.

Grannymar, WooHoo! Success at last. I hope it keeps working.

Anonymous said...

I've been taking a blog break over the holidays so only now read about your unfortunate holiday mishap. I hope you have a speedy recovery and won't have to repeat the mistreatment any time soon.

I think the entire medical community needs an overhaul and it could start by hiring some medical business analysts. The type who take a close look at what you're doing and then suggest methods of improvement.

We all have medical horror stories, so I don't think there would be a shortage of items in need of improvement.

Happy New Year, Darlene!

One Woman's Journey said...

Darlene do not know about the blog problem. Just want to say
I am so happy for you that you are home in your surroundings and healing.

seniorwriter said...

Everything you say mirrors my own recent hospital and rehab experience after my knee replacement surgery. The lack of communication, the paperwork, the long waits, the awakenings during the night: I suffered all of that and more, and I wasn't in a bad place either.

You were lucky to have children and friends to help; I was pretty much on my own.

Best wishes for recovery and future good health!