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I forgot the appointment, first time ever. But the stresses in this season of life caused my semi-annual visit to the psychiatrist to slip my mind.

I was diagnosed clinically depressed, with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder twenty years ago, so I’ve regularly seen a doctor to get Prozac, a helpful coping tool.

Surprisingly, the doctor’s office didn’t call when I no-showed. They did, however, send a $40 bill, which I promptly paid.

It was several months later, faced with both of my children and their families moving further away, and nearly out of my wonder drug, that I called to reschedule. This is where the trouble began.

“It looks like you were last seen in January,” the receptionist said.

“No, I forgot that appointment,” I said. There was a pause.

“Okay…you were last seen in July,” she said. “Then you’ll need to speak to someone in Billing.”

That seemed strange. I had paid the no-show fee.

The lady in Billing told me that since I hadn’t seen the doctor in a year, I would have to complete a 19-page intake form so he could decide whether to take me on as a new patient.

Say what? I had been seeing this guy twice a year for approximately thirteen years. And it had only been ten and a half months since I was last there, not a year.

“Seriously?” I asked the lady. I told her I didn’t have the time or energy to complete a 19-page mental health questionnaire, so I told her no thanks.

I wrote to the doctor, asking that he reconsider his policy for a long-time patient. In response, the same lady from Billing called and explained that this was what the doctor’s insurance company required. Realizing I would likely have to complete lengthy paperwork for a new doctor, I asked her to e-mail the form to me. She did and, after much groaning, I completed it that very night.

One of the questions was about episodes of depression I previously experienced. That was easy: “none” (that I could remember.) There were many questions I couldn’t answer such as what different medications I had tried in the past. “In your records” was all I could say; I didn’t remember, but the doctor had surely recorded it.

I called the next morning and talked to a different person in Billing, for whom I had to repeat my entire scenario. When I told her I had already completed the 19 pages and simply needed to make an appointment, she said, “Oh, no. We never send out the paperwork until an appointment has been scheduled.”

“Another lady in Billing e-mailed it to me yesterday,” I said.

“No. We never do that,” she said again.

Hmmmm……

Remember the question about depressive episodes? Those few days of dealing with my psychiatrist’s staff were coming closer than anything I’d ever experienced to pushing me into one.

I insisted again that I had the paperwork. The girl put me on hold, then came back and asked numerous questions about my mental health, pointing out that the doctor did not deal with disability or workmen’s compensation cases. I have never seen a doctor about disability or workmen’s comp issues and had not mentioned such a thing, so why say all of that? I just needed Prozac.

“Let me talk with the doctor,” she said, “and see if he’s willing to see you.” She called three hours later to tell me he would and finally, finally, scheduled my appointment. She had to have a credit card number, though, so they could charge a $100 fee if I failed to show up. This was in spite of the fact that I promptly paid the fee when I forgot the previous appointment. And the increase! From $40 to $100 in a few short months. She reminded me that they required a 24-hour notice to cancel an appointment. “My appointment is on a Monday,” I observed.

“Then you would need to cancel the Friday before,” she said.

“That’s more than 24-hours notice.”

“Well…I guess you could leave a message on our answering machine on Sunday,” she said, but her voice quavered with uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the doctor had no openings for several weeks—well past the time I would say goodbye to my children. So much for getting medication when I needed it most.

I had lots of time to consider the definition of healthcare while I waited for my appointment to roll around. Then I thought more about this doctor who was so quick to write me off as a patient. I finally decided it made no sense to seek care from a doctor who had so little concern for me. So I called, two weeks before the scheduled time, to cancel the appointment. (I’m still watching for a no-show fee on my credit card statement.)

“Do you want to reschedule?” the girl asked.

“No.”

“It’s canceled, then,” she said, after looking up and confirming the date and time. “And you don’t want to reschedule?”

“No, thank you.”

Two hours later, she left a message. “I need to get more information from you before I can cancel your appointment,” she said. The appointment she had already told me was canceled.

When I called, her question was simply whether or not I wanted to reschedule. Which she had already asked. Twice. AND had confirmed was canceled.

This is the office that didn’t bother to call when I forgot my appointment, putting me through hell simply trying to schedule—and then cancel—an appointment.

Healthcare? Not in my dictionary. I think this doctor had better find a line of work for which he’s better suited.

And the Prozac? It’s time I learn to live without it.

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