Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Freezing cold in hospital purgatory

Unhappy camper
Partners $1.2 billion electronic health records system may be seen as a key to the future, but for a patient like myself undergoing a procedure the day after the launch it was a horrible experience.

At least in the endoscopy center at Brigham and Women's Hospital, they did not have nearly enough technical support people to help enter data into computers. Actually I saw only one such person running around between computers while nurses clustered around trying to enter basic information.

According to a story in the Boston Globe, the new system will allow patients better access to their medical information and will have the potential to reduce medical mistakes. Instead of a separate record at every Partners facility, a patient will have one record throughout the system.

"The investment is part of a gamble by Partners and the US health care system that spending vast amounts on information technology will pay off in better health care at lower costs. Hospitals across the country are investing billions of dollars in electronic medical records systems, pushed by the Obama administration and insurers, which are adopting payment systems that require careful coordination of medical services," according to the story.
Had I known how difficult it would be for a patient, I would have planned my stomach problems at a different time.

For starters, the computer wasn't working at the reception desk, so patients checked in on paper, causing an initial backlog.

When I finally got in the bed where I took the above photo, I waited for more than an hour, shivering under unheated blankets. The nurse had to go through my many meds one by one, including all my dermatological creams, and if I said I was no longer using one, she asked me why and who told me and how long ago. Finally I said, "Just put down that I'm using them all."

"Oh for goodness sakes!" my nurse said more than once while a box would not turn the right color or a comment wouldn't enter.

Me: "Can't I have my Versed now? Can I have an Ativan?"

No, and no.

I didn't cry during treatment for leukemia, but when this nurse went on her lunch hour and no one came back and no one was in sight and I had to go to the bathroom, cry is what I did. Another nurse came over to ask what was wrong, and when I told her she said she would take me into the procedure room but I should be prepared to wait longer because a new set of instructions requiring entry into the computer would also take longer than expected. She was true to her word.

The purpose of all this, as I explained previously, is to do a biopsy to diagnose the cause of and hopefully treat the stomach problems that I have had for more than two weeks. Melissa suspects GVHD; it will take a few days for results.

When the doctor finally came in, the nurse asked me to state my name, birthdate and the procedure being performed. The nurse and her computer helper hadn't totally stopped talking, and I wasn't sure he heard me.

"I hope he's not going to take out my appendix," I said.

Well I survived, but getting out of there took longer than usual because they couldn't get my discharge papers to print.

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