Gertrude wasn’t able tell me herself. She was 90-years-old and moderately demented. It was her daughter who called. She pleasantly greeted me as I picked up the phone.
We had a good working relationship, Gertrude’s daughter and I. We navigated a heart attack and stroke, multiple hospitalizations, and many discussions concerning end of life care. Gertrude was well taken care of. She was lucky enough to have a group of helpers who were under the doting, watchful eyes of her daughter.
In fact, the last pneumonia and urinary tract infection were both treated successfully at home without need for hospitalization. I guess I took it for granted that Gertrude would be a part of my new practice. I had no doubt she could afford it. So I assumed that this would be a phone call about some pressing issue or another.
But I was wrong.
Gertrude’s daughter called to thank me for my service, and inform me that her mother was moving to another office. Her voice was smooth and confident with a tinge of pride as she gushed about the first visit that occurred earlier that morning. Although saddened by the realization that I would never see Gertrude’s warm if not vacant smile, I tried my best to be gracious. I offered to have my staff forward the medical records, and wished them well.
A few days later, I received a letter from Gertrude’s new doctor. He thanked me for the referral, and enclosed a copy of his note. My hands started to shake as I read the assessment and plan.
Gertrude, my 90-year-old demented woman, was referred for a screening mammogram and a colonoscopy. To add injury to insult, he ordered full lab work including a cholesterol panel.
No matter how depressed I am at this unbelievably inappropriate care, I can’t complain. It was I who changed things up on Gertrude. I have no right to be indignant. But I would like to offer a word of warning for all those out there looking for new doctors.
You can no longer be a passive force in your own medical care. Before you race into the bosom of a new provider, do the research. After each visit, question each new prescription and lab order.
And above all else, verify.