Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
In a long, drawn-out saga detailed below, I’ve seen first-hand many of the problems in our current medical system. Government intervention would do absolutely nothing to fix the universal problem created by poor management and by employees who perform their jobs ineptly…and would instead make them worse! I mailed the letter you see below to the president of the medical center where I had the tests done. Perhaps it will ruffle some feathers. Or perhaps not. My prayer is that it will lead to improved procedures there so that no one else has to experience these kinds of problems–
I am writing to let you know about the potentially botched lab work that was performed for me at your facility on Tuesday, August 25.
On Monday, August 24, Dr. X wrote orders for me to have specialized lab work done at the laboratory at XYZ Health Center. This was was the fourth time I had been sent to have blood drawn to determine whether or not I had cryoglobulin in my blood. The first test, drawn in the lab of the office of Dr. Z, rheumatologist, was invalid because it was not properly handled, and I had to go back in for a second test. This second sample tested positive for the presence of cryoglobulin. Dr. Z ordered another test to determine the type and quantity of cryoglobulin; because his in-house lab was not equipped for that test, he sent me to LabCorp. However, the LabCorp test was negative for the presence of cryoglobulin. Nevertheless, Dr. Z told me I needed to see a hematologist in order to rule out the possibility of particular kinds of cancers. So, I went to see Dr. X.
Dr X sent me to your facility. The phlebotomist at LabCorp had insisted that “the book” said I needed to be fasting, so I fasted overnight and went to your facility on Tuesday, August 28 in the early morning. Dr. X led me to believe that XYZ was the best place for this test, but I was dismayed at how little your staff knew about it. Testing for cryoglobulin is very specific: it must be drawn into a tube that has been warmed to body temperature, and the blood must be kept at body temperature as it is spun down. At all times the temperature is to be controlled. However, the phlebotomist at your facility was demonstrably unaware of these procedures. Even after I told her she needed to follow a specific protocol, she ignored me and continued to draw my blood into an unwarmed tube. After my blood was drawn, I had to ask her three times to please look up “cryoglobulin” in her book; she did not do so but referred me to the woman at the desk who did look it up in her book, and, in fact, verified everything I had been saying. After five minutes of running back and forth to the technician in the back, the staff decided to put warmers around the two tubes.
If I had not been proactive and insisted that your staff members look up the procedures for my test, the sample they drew would have been invalid and thrown out; I would have had to come up to your facility for yet another test, at more expense to me and my insurer, for a mistake made by you. It may yet be invalid because it was not drawn into a pre-warmed tube; I will have to wait for the test results to see.
Which brings me to another concern. Your staff duplicated tests that had already been done at Dr. X’s office just one day before. Dr. X circled the name of the test he wanted me to have done at the hospital (see attached notes). Your staff assumed that all the tests listed were to be done on me, resulting in yet more blood being drawn and more expense for me and for my insurance company. I tried to tell your staff that those other tests had already been run, but they told me that they had to follow the doctor’s orders. Had Dr X’s orders been transmitted electronically, this mistake would have been avoided.
With all the fuss in today‘s media about the insurance industry Bad Guy, I think it prudent to point out that all aspects of the health care machine share the blame in the escalating costs and decreasing quality of care: patients, physicians, hospitals, labs, and insurers need to work in tandem to eliminate wasteful mistakes and miscommunications such as the ones made between your staff and Dr. X.
I strongly suggest that you establish procedures that ensure that your phlebotomists review the tests they are being asked to do before they even see the patient, especially when drawing blood for tests that are unfamiliar to them and may require special handling. If you do already have such procedures in place, they obviously did not work.
As a patient, I have been on an emotional roller coaster for the past two months, wondering if I have cryoglobulin in my blood, or if I do not. I had high hopes that XYZ would be the place that would definitively find an answer for me — but when I discovered that I knew more about my test than the professionals at your facility, my hopes were dashed.
If I have to have a fifth test for cryoglobulin, I will travel to whatever lab actually processes the sample, even if it requires a plane trip. Surely they will know how to do it correctly. Then again, in this health care crisis, maybe I should go to Germany.
Will my letter make a difference? I’ll keep you posted on any response I do — or don’t — receive.
In the meantime, be proactive about your health care. Ask questions. Ruffle some feathers. Look to the Lord for for the balm and ask him to help you find a suitable physician. Doctors are not gods. Only the good ones are actually healers, as I’m coming to understand.