Do they not teach looking and listening in med school?
December 13, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth my time/energy to complain to my hospital about negative interactions with a Dr. 18 months ago? I had complained several times previously to the Dr's office with no response, but new information has come to light that makes me even more irritated, since I found a document they gave me that misstates my height by 10 inches (4'11" instead of 5'9"), putting my BMI at 32, which explains why she lectured me on being fat.

There are two issues:

1) I went in because I wanted my psych prescriptions transferred to her because she said they could handle them and I was told it would be cheaper than my psychiatrist. When there, she lectured me on how she was going to get me off of any psych meds and was decreasing all doses and each time I came in I could expect a lecture. I also had to sign a document saying I would submit to random drug screening due to the meds she was prescribing.

After we talked about other stuff (see below) she gave me a cup to pee in. I should have realized it was a drug test, but she didn't tell me that it was. So when I got called later with "hey, you're not on drugs!" my response was "what do you mean?"

I felt duped. I was told I could transfer my prescription to her, not that I would be subject to puritanical lectures and random drug screenings.

Bottom line: I feel like I did not consent to a drug screen. Of course, I signed something saying they could do it at any time.


2) She told me that rock climbing 3-4 times/week for 60-90 minutes (30-45 of which are actually climbing) was insufficient exercise and that I needed to exercise more. She also said I wasn't eating properly and gave me a handout on "Eat more veggies, no bagels." She expressed concern that I read or watch movies in bed. She said she was concerned about my weight. This seemed crazy and freaked me out. She also gave me paperwork for an immediate cholesterol test. (I did not do that, and got tested for work this year and am very healthy.)

It freaked me out because I am (and was at that time) 5' 9'+ and 160lbs, fairly muscular with a 30 inch waist. So I started bike riding a lot (100-120 miles, with hills, per week for months) and dropped to 150lbs, but then my body was telling me I needed more food and less exercise and I've been fairly stable at 160-165 since.

Today I was cleaning up some documents in my kitchen and found the paperwork she gave me.

It has my height as 59.75 inches. I am not 4' 11 3/4". It has my weight correct, but then the computed BMI is 32, which is in obese territory. They clearly either wrote 5' 9 3/4" as 59.75 or mistyped 69.75 inches as 59.75.

Could she not see me standing there in front of her, not obese?

Bottom line: failure to document my height correctly led to errors in my medical file and failure of the Doctor to use her eyeballs led to her giving me very bad advice.


About issue number 1, I was horrified at how I had been treated and immediately switched back to my psychiatrist. Also the GP was charging me about 3-4x what my psychiatrist did. I called the office several times over several months, expressing my concern about how I was treated. The person at the office front desk always sounded very understanding and would tell me that someone would call em back. No one ever did.

About issue number 2, I am really not even sure how to proceed. I want to correct their data on me, but I also want to demonstrate to anyone there that they gave me a lot of advice based on that incorrect data, so I don't want them to correct it first.

The main question is: should I bother with ANY of this and how would I do something about it, or should I just find a new Doctor?
This Dr. (and her colleagues, one of whom has also behaved equally poorly in the past) is part of a large hospital chain. I am able to afford a private clinic if necessary, although I don't really have any chronic issues that require ongoing care, and have started using ZoomCare (retail, urgent-care style, PA care that is inexpensive, convenient, and way more friendly) for things like sinus infections or minor injuries.

I guess the question to me is "what do I want out of this?" Part of that is "a new doctor." The other part is "an apology or recognition or ?"

I recognize that occasionally I get irritated by things that are annoying but maybe in the end inconsequential, so I am happy to let this one go if necessary.
posted by MonsieurBon to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You will probably not get an apology, but you might get some satisfaction from knowing that the complaint will be on file and may (hopefully) be taken into account when it is time to evaluate this doctor's record.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can't change other people. If writing a letter will help you feel better then write a letter to the hospital. In other words, flag it and move on ;)

Then find a new doctor.
posted by COD at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Register your complaints in detail, find a new doctor.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:47 AM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Man, just get a new doctor.
posted by downing street memo at 11:49 AM on December 13, 2012

I don't understand why you waited 18 months to do anything about this. She sounds like an idiot. If future interaction with her isn't necessary, I wouldn't keep using her.

If you're wondering how an idiot like this keeps her job, I'm reminded of the line "What do you call the person who graduates last in med school?"

Answer: "Doctor."

And I think, at the risk of overgeneralizing, that these kind of folks are more prone to working for large hospitals rather than going into private practice where their people and medical skills determine whether they get to eat or not.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2012

The doctor is typically a partner in the practice so when you complain to the practice, you're complaining to them. Which explains why no one is paying attention to your complaint.

Frankly, we give doctors too much power. You got a shithead, but it's okay, you won't be going back to her. Sometimes it happens.

I find word of mouth to be a good way to find a great doc. If ZoomCare is working, that's cool too.

An annual physical is a good idea, just to understand where you are today and to have something to base it all on in the future.

Let it go. Find a good doc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: RandomKeyStrike: I didn't let it go for 18 months. I called several times after that appointment, for months. The second issue I only discovered yesterday, which then reminded me of the first.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2012

It freaked me out because I am (and was at that time) 5' 9'+ and 160lbs, fairly muscular with a 30 inch waist. So I started bike riding a lot...and dropped to 150lbs.

Could she not see me standing there in front of her, not obese?

I'm not understanding this part. If it ought to have been incredibly clear to her that you were exercising sufficiently and your BMI was correct, why did you take her advice so seriously and exercise hard and drop weight? Why didn't you just disregard her advice, knowing it was incorrect? I think you might be magnifying the severity of the bad advice, too; she didn't prescribe dangerous medication or do an unnecessary surgery... I think this might be one to let go, as you indicated towards the end of your question.
posted by cranberrymonger at 12:15 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sure, complain to the hospital. I recommend you write a letter to the head of her department, CC the board of directors, and file a complaint with their ombudsman/whatever. Mostly because her treatment of you was infuriating and I personally don't mind being the bureaucratic equivalent of a mosquito in the bedroom when that happens.

But more important, complain to the state board in question (per the AMA.)

And absolutely change doctors. I won't step foot in a doctor's office if they've said anything like "I'll get you off your psych meds." A doctor who said that to me, would be a doctor shown to be a complete idiot. I would not let them touch me, quite frankly, let alone have them the primary physician responsible for my medical care.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Please just complain to whoever she works for and not to the state board.

I totally understand why you were unhappy with her care, but the state board is not for complaints about not liking a doctor's bedside manner or customer service, it is for actual complaints about the care received, and the care you received was all within reason medically (I mean, she told you to eat healthy and exercise, and she drug tested you after telling you she was going to drug test you because of the meds you're taking - which is standard procedure at a lot of places). And by the way, many docs do want to get people off of addictive psych meds, like benzodiazepines, and not for their own evil purposes, because they're addictive and there are other options (and being harassed by patients addicted to benzos is one of the worst parts of being a doctor). I'm not saying it was the right thing to do for you personally, but there was a reason behind that.

I definitely think it's reasonable to write down your concerns and send them in, both to the physician in question and any superior you can reach, but the state board is something people recommend making complaints to far too easily. If you really want to make her miserable, like to get REVENGE on her for what she did to you, then maybe state board would be gratifying, but this really doesn't sound like that level of offense.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: p.s. you can also write a Yelp/Google other public review for her practice. People actually see and care about that stuff. I'm a physician myself and I wrote a negative online review for one of my specialists and the practice manager immediately contacted me, full of apologies and begging me to remove the negative review (I didn't, because it was warranted and they did not make up for the slight).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Complain and find a new doctor. It might make you feel better. But be aware that the offense here is really not that significant, and seems to have taken a toll in the form of hurt feelings more than anything else. And it was 18 months ago. So I wouldn't wait for a formal sanction of any kind against the doc.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2012

Best answer: Well it's true no real harm was done; but the fact that this doctor prescribed a course of action based on obviously incorrect data -- stuff that she would have KNOWN was wrong if she'd taken even a cursory look at the patient -- is kind of scary. This is how surgeons wind up amputating the wrong foot, you know? So I think it's perfectly appropriate to throw it up on Yelp and to complain to all the supervisors and boards you can think of. Maybe it'll teach her to look at her patients if nothing else.

I wouldn't complain about the recommendations themselves (nobody will care that you exercised too much), but rather about her failing to note an obvious discrepancy between the notes and the patient's appearance.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:42 PM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is what ombudsmen are for. Call the hospital's main number and ask to be transferred. Write everything down as best you remember it now. If she's given you this quality of care, you're very unlikely to be the only one. You're passing along a favor to someone else.
posted by syncope at 2:43 PM on December 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: cranberrymonger - That is a valid point. The answer to "why" is that in that clinical setting I feel very much like the doctor is the all-knowing authority. I know that's not the case, and I am working on standing up for myself more in such settings. It was at least enough to make me say "oh no, maybe I am NOT healthy!" And yes, it's not the end of the world that I exercise more. "I demand compensation for being in the best shape of my life!"

I tried seeing another doctor in the same practice. He told me my toenail fungus was not toenail fungus, then GOOGLED "athlete's foot" on his Blackberry in front of me, then wrote a prescription down while looking at the Blackberry. The pharmacists laughed at it, saying what he had prescribed was an incredibly expensive custom formulation that would have resulted in the same foot spray at the same dose as was available in Aisle 6 for $5.99.

The bill from him was $180 for the office visit and $180 for the "procedure" of him Googling "athlete's foot."

I went to a dermatologist and it was toenail fungus.

They also have this weird habit of billing my insurance for "pulse oximeter" for $12 for every office visit, even though I know what a pulse oximeter is and they've never used one. I called the billing office and they said they always bill it whether they do it or not because it's part of the standard "office visit package" or something. I know hospitals and insurance are in constant battle, but that just seems fraudulent to me.

So I am definitely done with that practice completely.

So I guess I will either call or not call, definitely write a review, but not worry about this too much. Life is too much fun and the world too beautiful to dwell on crap like this for too long.

Thanks for all the perspective/feedback.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:10 PM on December 13, 2012

The bill from him was $180 for the office visit and $180 for the "procedure" of him Googling "athlete's foot."

What "procedure?" What did the bill say? What was the numerical code for this "procedure?"

They also have this weird habit of billing my insurance for "pulse oximeter" for $12 for every office visit, even though I know what a pulse oximeter is and they've never used one. I called the billing office and they said they always bill it whether they do it or not because it's part of the standard "office visit package" or something. I know hospitals and insurance are in constant battle, but that just seems fraudulent to me.

Holy insurance fraud, Batman.

It's possible that these two things are somehow customary in some bizarre way that your insurance company already knows about, but it sounds like the sort of thing that your insurer would be interested in hearing about.

I'll agree with treehorn+bunny that what you previously described (drug testing after you gave written consent, poor bedside manner, and records errors) doesn't really rise to a medical board complaint, this sort of fraud might. I might get the advice of your insurer and go from there.

Sounds like a crappy practice. Stop seeing them.
posted by grouse at 5:36 PM on December 13, 2012

Not sure you understood your bill - unfortunately, Googling is not a billable procedure, even if your doctor wanted it to be. It just isn't.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:34 PM on December 13, 2012

You'd probably get more mileage out of complaining on Rate My Doctor or Yelp than complaining to the hospital. As others have said, there's just no way you're going to get any kind of apology for being told to exercise more and eat healthy.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:09 AM on December 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: treehorn+bunny - shrug. It was his first day, I think. There was a big sign out in the waiting room welcoming him and he had just graduated from med school (or residency or whatever). Perhaps he wasn't aware of billing properly? Either way it was cheaper to see him a year later and get an x-ray when I thought I broke my elbow than it was for him to tell me I didn't have toenail fungus.

And certainly it's possible the billing didn't make sense to me. I am just going off of what things cost before insurance settled their various percentages. $180+$180 was more expensive than $180+$75.

I looked up the main doctor I have an issue with and I have found several other complaints about exactly what I have described here.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:48 PM on December 14, 2012

Response by poster: And yes, I do need to eat better, but she would have had no way of knowing that since she didn't ask me about my diet.
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:49 PM on December 14, 2012

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