Thursday, June 21, 2012

Charging Patients for Not Being Seen

     This is the craziest thing.  Do doctors really do this?
     A patient came in and said that at his old doctor's office he called three days' prior to a scheduled appointment to cancel and was told that he would have to pay $50 to be able to cancel.   He had another important commitment and besides, he wasn't feeling sick any more so he didn't need to see the doctor.
     Another patient said that at her doctor's office, where she usually sees the Physician's Assistant, patients are charged $25 if they are more than twelve minutes late for an appointment, and they have to reschedule the appointment.  If the patient cancels an appointment and doesn't give at least twenty-four hours' notice the patient must pay $50 and can't be seen again at that office until the penalty is paid.
     Are doctors learning something from the law enforcement sector?  Are we punishing patients for having disturbances in their lives?  Are we assuming a parental role?  Are our schedules really so horrendous that a no-show or a cancelled appointment has to be treated with punitive measures, even at the cost of our patients' faith in us?  Are our salaries so marginal that we need to collect money for services not rendered?
     I don't like to treat patients as if they were children.
     At my office patients can be seen at any time.  They can walk in, or they can schedule an appointment.  Sometimes there's a wait.  We aren't Wal-Mart.  We don't promise convenience-store speed, but we do promise to examine you and take excellent care of you.  And we don't charge if you can't make it to a scheduled appointment.  There are plenty of patients to fill the empty slot.
     I have been a single parent.  I know that lots of things can happen in life and sometimes you just can't make it to an appointment.
     If you really need to see a doctor, you'll be here.
     Have you ever been sick and needed to see a doctor, but there were no appointments available for one or two weeks?  What do you do with your bad bronchitis, or urinary tract infection, or hemorrhoids while you're waiting for the appointment slot?  It's not humane to do this to patients.
     No wonder the emergency rooms are filled with patients every day. 

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