Thursday, June 02, 2005

Referring Back to Kaiser

I suppose my solo practice would grow faster if I didn't keep turning people away.

Several weeks ago, a mother called me to request an appointment for her daughter who injured a toe a few days before. Although she had Kaiser medical insurance (which won't reimburse for non-emergency out of network visits), she was willing to pay me cash in order to have her daughter be seen today and avoid having to go the the Urgent Care in Hollywood. I told her that I would be glad to see her daughter, but that I wanted to try to help her get an appointment at Kaiser first, since it seems, well, stupid, when people have health insurance but feel they can't use it.

So I called the Kaiser clinic I used to work at, spoke to one of the nurses who remembered me and I explained the situation. Even though there were no available appointments, she said that she would make sure this patient could be worked in as long as the patient came in right away. I promptly called the mother back and told her what the nurse told me. About a week later I ran into the mother at some school function and she thanked me for helping get her daughter seen. I figured I saved the patient at least $125, if you count my $50 office visit plus $75 for an x-ray of her toe.

This has happened two more times since then. Once for a family friend's son with a toe problem. And another time for one of my patient's mother who was having what sounded like cervical radiculopathy. She said she was told her regular doctor was on vacation, so she had to go to Urgent Care. I tried to explain to her that there are at least 15 other doctors at the Kaiser clinic, but she didn't understand. Anyways, both times I called the triage nurse, and somehow she worked them in.

So although I missed out on some income, I feel like I was able to help someone by NOT seeing them. Plus I hope that these patients will be so grateful to me that they tell others how helpful I was, and maybe I'll get a few patients that way.

But I think this will have to stop. I don't want to be known as a back door way of getting an appointment at Kaiser. Plus I don't want to abuse any goodwill I may have left with the Kaiser triage nurses, all of whom work EXTREMELY hard (thanks, Leni, Pat and Wanda!). Plus, I should commend the doctors who stayed late and squeezed in an extra patient so these people could get seen.

That used to be me. I'm happier where I am at now.

Hopefully Kaiser will improve its appointment system so it can see all of its patients at their regular clinic without having to send people miles away to Urgent Care. Until then, I'll be available to anyone who needs to be seen today.