Breakfast Smoothie – Health Care Registration

(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)

Medical Building“You know what the most annoying part of going for medical tests is?” asked Tim?

Ben and Erica said at the same time, “Registration,” and looked at each other.

“Right,” said Tim. “I had to go to the doctor’s yesterday and he sent me for some blood work and an x-ray. It was painful.”

“The blood work?” asked Erica.

“Registration. Painful. A complete waste of my time.”

“You could have been home watching the History channel,” said Ben. “Is anything seriously wrong?”

“No. He just wanted to ‘check some things’. That made it even more annoying. All of that time wasted. And there was a seven part ‘History of Medicine’ marathon that I missed, so it was no joking matter.”

My three neighbors who were joining me for the smoothies that I was carrying into the garden knew I would be distressed.

For thirty-five years or so I had been employed in information systems in health care. I worked mostly on the administrative systems in hospitals and had worked with clinics, too. They had all heard my poignant tale. I feel that my life has been wasted because registration in medical facilities is no further advanced than it had been in the early 60s.

Setting the breakfast smoothies on the table, I said, Your “‘waiting for Dr. Godot” smoothies are ready. Tell us about it, Tim.

“What’s your doctor’s name?” said Erica.

“He’s being funny and intellectual. Just ignore him,” said Ben.

Tim continued. “I go to the doctor’s office, get out my insurance card and ID and since I’ve been there before I only have to fill out their ‘recent health’ questionnaire and answer some stupid questions. ‘Do you still live at the same address’ (yes, you’ve got my ID), ‘have you changed health insurance plans?’ (no, you’ve got my insurance card), you didn’t pay your co-pay last time, would you like to take care of that now?’ (of course, I’d love to) and then they took my picture. What’s that about? The doctor barely looks at me for the three minutes that he is in the room with me. What does he need my picture for? Come to think about it, nobody in the office ever looks at me. They’re looking at their computer screens.”

“At least they didn’t give you the ‘we’re changing our computer system and need to ask you for all of your information again’ line,” said Erica.

“Then he sends me over to the hospital lab for blood work. Again, they copy my ID and insurance card; and, they ask me all of the registration questions again. I told them, ‘I’ve been here before. In fact, you are the one who registered me last time. Don’t you remember me?’ (I don’t think she did). And she took my picture, too. What is it? Did the camera salesman come through? Do they think I’m going to send in one of you guys to get my blood drawn for me?”

“Then I go through the entire process at the Radiologist’s Office. They’ve got a new office, so they’ve never seen me before, but you’d think the computer in the doctor’s office could talk to their computer or something.”

This was my opportunity to jump in.

If you walk into Barnes & Noble and while you are browsing decide to get a Starbuck’s Coffee and you want to pay for it with a credit card would they say, “Absolutely, Sir. If you’ll just go over and see Janice, she’ll get your information.” And Janice would ask questions, register you, check your credit, and send you to the cashier to pay, say, fifty cents for the coffee and scone, letting you charge the rest.

That’s not what happens.

Then when you pick out your books and go to the checkout cashier and hand your credit card would she say, “Yes Sir, just step over to Kecia’s desk and she’ll take care of you.” And Kecia would register you, check your credit, and send you back to the cashier to pay your $3 co-pay and charge the rest.

Registration at the gas pumpThat’s not what happens, either.

Then you get in your car and before driving away pull up to the gas pump and instead of swiping your card, you have to go see Tony who registers you, checks your credit, and then allows your to pay with a credit card.

None of that happens. You can go anywhere in the world to any store, big or small, and they don’t need to register you. They just need to swipe your credit card. They don’t even care who you are! Hell, even the lady selling sea shells with googly-eyes at the flea market last weekend was willing to take my credit card.

“They say they need to know who you are so they don’t treat the wrong patient,” said Ben.

The truth is, collecting our information and making sure who we are, are two entirely different issues.

The policeman who gives me a traffic ticket has to make sure who I am, but doesn’t have to register me.

Medical BuildingSecurity at the airport has to make sure who I am, but does not have to register me.

The cashier at the bank even gives me money without registering me.

“They say they need to make sure the information’s right so they can bill the insurance,” said Ben.

A gas pump does that without registering me.

Is it too much to ask that they share my basic information?

“Is sharing your information a security issue?” asked Ben.

Well, I’m sharing my information with Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, British Petroleum and the googly-eye sea shell lady and none of us are worrying about it.

Erica asked, “You didn’t really buy the googly-eye sea shells, did you?”

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