(Im)Patient Registration

I walk into the doctor’s office and hand the clerk my insurance card and ID. Since I’ve been there before I only have to fill out their ‘recent health’ questionnaire and answer some questions.

Medical BuildingDo you still live at the same address?

Yes. You have my ID.

Have you changed health insurance plans?

No. You have my insurance card.

You didn’t pay your co-pay last time. Would you like to take care of that now?

I’d love to.

She takes my picture. What’s that about? The doctor barely looks at me for the three minutes that he is in the room. 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 me the “We’re changing our computer system and need to ask you for all your information again,” line.

They send me to the hospital lab for blood work. Again, they copy my ID and insurance card and they ask me the registration questions. I said, “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.

She takes my picture. What is this? Did the camera salesman come through? Do they think I’m going to send in someone else to have my blood drawn?

Then I go through the entire process at the Radiologist’s Office. They have a new office, so they have never seen me before, but you’d think the computer in the doctor’s office would talk to the radiology computer.

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

No. That’s not what happens.

When you pick out your books and go to the checkout cashier and hand your credit card does she say, “Yes Sir, step over to Kecia’s desk and she’ll take care of you.” Does Kecia register you, check your credit, and send you back to the cashier to pay your three dollar co-pay and charge the rest.

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

You get in your car and before driving away pull up to the gas pump and you 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 swipe your credit card. They don’t even care who you are! Even the lady selling sea shells with googly-eyes at the flea market last weekend was willing to take my credit card.

They need to know who you are so they don’t treat the wrong patient.

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

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

Security 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 need to make sure the information’s right so they can bill the insurance.

A gas pump does that without registering me.

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

Medical BuildingSharing my information may be a security issue.

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

For thirty-five years or so I have developed health care information systems. I worked on administrative systems in hospitals, physician office, emergency rooms and clinics. Registration in medical facilities is no further advanced than it had been in the early 1960s.

I should have automated gas pumps.

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