Sometime in late February, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist at Student Health. As mentioned here and here, this is when I started feeling like the stress of a failed wedding, a repeated year of medical school, and my mother’s illness was finally starting to catch up with me. Not surprisingly, this is also when my course load lightened dramatically and we already know what happens when there aren't enough distractions in life.
Anyway, the psychiatrist gave me some PRN Klonopin, but let me tell you guys, benzodiazapienes do not agree with me. Instead of the soothing dullness I was hoping for, I felt…tipsy. My reflexes were slowed, I was overwhelmingly tired, and I couldn’t focus on the notes in front of me. On top of that, the Klonopin did not relieve my anxiety symptoms. I took it two more times just to make sure, and every time was the same: Sleepy McDrunk Face with zero relief of anxiety symptoms.
I reverted back to my usual way of coping: working out compulsively, listening to music, going for long drives, drinking hot tea, and going out with friends. I also set boundaries with my mother, stopped responding to Rich’s emails, and slowly, I started feeling better.
Two weeks after my initial visit in February, I had a follow-up appointment with the psychiatrist. I had planned to go so that I could tell her that Klonopin and I will never be friends, but the morning of my appointment, her secretary called to say that she was having a family emergency and that she needed to cancel my appointment. I kept getting calls for the next several weeks asking me to reschedule and I finally did last week.
Today, when I got to the office for my follow-up visit, I was promptly informed by the receptionist that there was an “alert” on my account. I asked what that meant and she sassily informed me that because I had missed my last appointment, my registration was going to be blocked.
I was a little stunned, first of all, because I didn’t miss the appointment. I got a voicemail saying that it was canceled. Second of all, since when is the penalty for a missed appointment the blocking of one’s registration?
I asked for clarification and the receptionist told me that the fee was $40 for a missed appointment, but since I didn’t pay it, my registration would be blocked. Again, what missed appointment? What fee? Was I supposed to know about this?
Whenever I have to deal with “customer service” issues, though, I try to be the nicest, sweetest person I can be, because I realize that I’m going to get further being nice than getting angry. So, in my calmest voice, I explained that I had gotten a call on the morning of my appointment saying that the doctor was having a family emergency and that she needed to cancel. So obviously, I didn't show up that day.
The receptionist checked the computer, then said,
“Well, she was here all day, so obviously you’re just being untruthful.”
This is the point, readers, in which I should mention that I look a lot younger than I am in real life. In most situations, this is awesome. I mean, who doesn’t like to be told that they have a baby face?
But, standing across from this power-hungry, annoyed receptionist who just accused me of being "untruthful" about a missed appointment at Student Health, I realized that she was probably thinking that I was some 18 year old punk who was trying to get out of the charge so that my parents wouldn’t see it on my student account and get mad at me. This is obviously not the case. Also, I don’t miss my doctor’s appointments, because like most of you, if I am even able to cram an appointment into my hectic schedule, I can't cancel it because the chance that I will have another one or two hour window is slim. More importantly, as a future doctor, I don’t like to waste people’s time. If I know that I really can’t keep an appointment, I just call the day before and say so, like a normal human being.
I spent the 10 minutes waiting for the doctor by toggling through my phone to find my call history of the day in question. Apparently, I was going to have to provide some sort of verifiable truth to these people, lest they think that I lie and make up stories to cover my tracks. Sure enough, my memory was right and there were two missed calls from Student Health that morning. Sadly, the voicemail was deleted long ago.
When I went in to see the doctor, I mentioned this fiasco to her, showed her my phone, and then, she looked in her own logs.
“Oh, well, it looks like I was in the office that day, so I guess you'll just have to pay.”
Umm…what? Since when does a doctor just assume that the mistake is due to the patient, and not to the office staff? I didn’t want to get smart with her, but she was looking at my phone with two missed calls from her office line. Am I really expected to call my cell phone service provider and have them dredge up my deleted voicemails (can they even do that?) just to prove that I’m not trying to skirt a $40 fee?
The incompetence of Student Health Services is appalling. If it’s not the doctors with questionable medical skills, it’s the receptionists who have way too much attitude for their position, or the nurse practitioners who don’t know how to fill out referral paperwork. Last year, I ended up paying $400 out of pocket, because the nurse practitioner who wrote me the referral to a specialist gave me the wrong paperwork and then didn’t chart what she did. Obviously, without a proper referral, I had to pay the whole cost of the visit and because she didn’t chart my reason for coming in to the office, there was no record to dispute it.
Seriously, someone shut these people these down already.
Also, I didn’t even need the stupid Klonopin. In fact, I didn’t need anything today. I was just trying to be a good patient and follow-up with my physician because that is what responsible medical students who want to keep their doctors updated do. Ironic, isn't it?