Pat Drummond :: life & technology

January 09, 2021

Physicians, Faxes and Phones

In a recent article in The Ottawa Citizen, Kate Heartfield described the health system's communication problems and it really resonated with me. No one knows why doctors still use faxes - even lawyers, financial and real estate professionals have moved online.  In my experience faxes from doctors often don't get sent in a timely manner and can even get lost at the receiving end, requiring multiple calls to get it fixed.

Then there's appointments with my doctor - these must be made by phone, which  takes from an hour to a whole day (busy signals, leave message, wait).  

Here's a typical example of an injection I get every 6 months, which takes many phone calls (see above), at least 2 faxes, spread over a month and takes hours of my time.  Read on only if you have a love of torture... 

I begin about 5 months after my last injection, I call the clinic and must listen endlessly about their office hours, COVID information, how difficult it will be to get an appointment (no kidding), then a beep without warning. I'm too slow and have to call again to leave a message. I get a call-back the next day, and explain I need a blood test requisition and an "appointment" with the doctor 2-3 weeks before the target date.

The clinic says they will fax a blood test requisition to the lab. The next day I make an appointment with the lab online, which takes a few minutes. But when I arrive all masked up on the day, and stand in a distanced line outside for half an hour, but then the lab can't find the fax! The nurse looks up my previous requisition, and proceeds anyway - not her first rodeo! But they still need a requisition, so they give me the lab's email to notify them after it's re-sent - another save. I drive to the clinic (faster than phoning). Their response is: "Did their fax machine fail again?" But they re-send the form, and give me a paper copy, which I upload to the lab website as soon as I get back to a computer. Then I email the lab and have a reply within minutes informing me they have the requisitions - even the lost fax, oddly enough.

Two weeks later, I receive the call from the doctor. After a short chat, the doctor promises to fax the prescription to the pharmacy "right now". Then I phone the clinic to arrange an appointment to receive the injection.

And yet more "gotcha's". I need to get the prescription filled, delivered and kept cold. But when I phone I discover the pharmacy has not received the prescription fax. I phone the clinic again and finally manage to leave a message to please send the fax. I phone the pharmacy a couple of hours later and it's still not there - they promise to call when it arrives. I finally call again and they have it. I arrange for it to be delivered one day before my appointment. 

But they aren't through with me yet. The delivery never came. This one's on them. I had no choice but to call yet again, and stop at the pharmacy to get it before going to the clinic for the injection. Happy to report that I didn't pick up "the virus" at any of the three places. In 5 months, repeat...