Those in charge of saving our lives can’t seem to save information

July 12th, 2019

Med Records

(As published in the Daily Memphian)

The group of curmudgeons I have lunch with each week has an understanding; we can talk about health issues and bitch about what’s wrong with us for a maximum of five minutes. You should easily be able to read this column in that amount of time.

About 30 years ago and before everybody had desktop computers, I worked on a FedEx ad campaign to convince business people to do their own package pickup and delivery scheduling, labeling, and billing with a cute little machine and monitor FedEx would provide … a baby desktop … among the first gurgling of customer-driven online shipping.

Today, FedEx can deliver damn near anything damn near anywhere by tomorrow, and whatever they can’t deliver tomorrow, they can get to the end of the Earth by the end of the week. And to do any of that, they only have to ask for the necessary information once. And once they’ve asked, they know who you are. And how you’re paying. And once they know that, they trust you to tell them if any of that changes.

However, my doctor, actually, doctors (by now I have a full spectrum of medical school graduates tapping my primary and secondary policies and asking about tertiary policies) can’t seem to stay in touch with where my body is right here like FedEx can with five bazillion boxes around the globe.

Each of those doctors and each hospital system and/or clinic now has a “portal.” Each of them will post all of your information to that portal. While each of them wants you to have access to that portal – with the requisite username and password of no less than six characters and no spacing with at least one capital letter, one symbol, and one number – they will not allow you, or anyone else, to allow any of them to have access to each other’s portals.

Iran is more likely to talk to the United States, Mitch McConnell more likely to share strategy with Nancy Pelosi, and wet ribs surrender superiority to dry in Memphis, than any of my portals to each other. My information is more “siloed” than the Republican and Democratic Parties.

I’m thoroughly “portaled” (I’m coining that because it will soon be a verb, two l’s maybe?), but my doctors seem to have no idea who I am. I had back surgery in November and follow-up appointments since, but I’m still asked to fill out a complete online personal medical history, family medical history, race and gender and age particulars, financial statement, and identity check including photos, front and back, of all requisite cards and documents in advance of my next appointment.

If I added an essay and a couple of references, I think I could get a mortgage, a job, and into college with this application.

That brings me to the waiting room for one of those aforementioned appointments. How are we doing on our five minutes?

Although there are four huge reception desks across the width of the building, the purpose of all of them is to direct you to a kiosk in the middle where you are to limp, roll or drag yourself and proceed to re-enter on a big screen information you just sent them in advance online in full view of whoever is on the screen next to you, standing in line behind you, or hovering over you to “assist.”

One might as well stand in the parking lot or waiting room and yell at the woman three rows over or seven chairs down, “Hey, I’m here for my neck but I’m incontinent, too. You?” And in reply, “Knee, second time, and I’ve got gas, big time. Dad had it, too, and don’t get me going about yeast infections.”

As I write this, an email and a text just showed up on my screen. I have an appointment next week at that same place. They want me to give them that information again.

Our medical delivery system is as bloated, uncoordinated, and self-centered as the competing, incestuous, and self-serving institutions responsible for it.

This is past ridiculous. We’re sick. After we’ve been there once, you know who we are. Act like it. Treat us without delay and with dignity. And when we ask, share our information with whomever you refer us to so they can treat us. 

If you can’t do that, put our medical records in a box and send them via FedEx to a mountaintop in Tibet with forwarding instructions to our next doctor. They’ll get there before they can get deportaled.

I’m a Memphian, and I really do think deportaled should have two l’s.


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