Echocardiogram Debacle at Heart Center

FORWARD: The following events occurred on January 8, 2014 as I tried to register my arrival for a previously scheduled procedure – an ultrasound of the heart. Integris Heart Hospital is a well-respected facility with a number one rating for heart health care. It is because Integris is held in such high esteem, that my experience was so shocking. I never expected such non-professionalism from staff members at this elite facility.

Two days after blogging my experience, a representative from the hospital phoned, wishing to discuss my experience in depth. She (name withheld for privacy) explained that their marketing department ran across my rant and brought it to the attention of several Department Heads. She assured me that along with two other Department Heads, they would be addressing these issues with the culpable persons.

I felt appeased with her resolutions and was most impressed with her caring attitude. I cannot attest that any changes have been implemented; I have no need to return to the heart clinic since all tests proved my heart to be in excellent condition. Being an eternal optimist, I have faith that changes were implemented for the good of the patients.

This is the occurrence:

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My appointment for the Echocardiogram was scheduled for 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, January 8, and I was instructed to be at the office half an hour earlier to fill out any additional paperwork. I am and always have been a stickler for being on time, usually arriving fifteen to twenty minutes earlier than necessary because I like to plan ahead for things like traffic problems.

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Lazy, Arrogant Receptionist
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I arrived at 7:05 a.m. and noticed through the glass door and window-walls, there was minimal lighting in the office and only one “girl” behind the large, front reception desk. I reached for the knob on the glass door and discovered that it was still locked. The “girl” did not acknowledge me but rose from her chair, walked in the opposite direction of the door, only to turn around and come back to unlock it, still not making eye contact with me nor offering a verbal greeting.

I proceeded to the counter of the reception desk and waited for the “girl” to sit back down and process me. After being seated, she handed a form to me, “Fill this out,” she curtly instructed. I filled out my name, the procedure for which I was there and my scheduled time for the procedure. I handed the paperwork to her at which time she told me to go across the hall and get my labs done then return to her and processing would be completed. I did what I was told and headed across the hall to the lab.

By this time, it was 7:15 a.m. The receptionist at the Lab was a little friendlier; at least she smiled as I approached the desk. After asking my name and keying in what sounded like a lot more information than my name, she told me to take a seat and the tech would call me as soon as she arrived. What? I began to worry about interference with my appointment across the hall. I asked when the tech would be arriving and was told she typically arrives at 7:30 a.m.

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Butterfly Syringe
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My husband and I sat down and at 7:40 a.m. I was called back to have my blood drawn for a cholesterol checkup. I promptly told the tech that she would need a butterfly syringe because I have difficult veins. She thanked me and busied herself with lining up five vials, the butterfly syringe, cotton balls, and whatever other paraphernalia she required for the draw and then began the WORST blood draw I have ever experienced in my entire life!

The first vial was filled after the tech wiggled and pushed and pulled the syringe around, removed the first filled vial and proceeded to hook up the second vial, only to have the blood stop flowing. This meant the tech would need to grab another sterile butterfly syringe and go hunting for another vein. She found a suitable one in my hand and finished filling the second vial – barely, the flow stopped again when she tried to attach the third vial.

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Blood Draw Vials
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By this time, I was growing irritable so I asked if it would be alright to return and fill the other two vials after my echocardiogram. The tech was more than happy to oblige my request, adding that another tech would be there to help. I was happy to hear that, being optimistic that the next tech might have more experience with persons whose veins ‘roll.’

Crossing the hall to the cardiac lab testing office, I approached the front desk and the receptionist who was so unprofessional upon my initial arrival waived me toward another receptionist at the far end of the desk. I gave the second receptionist my information and co-pay then sat down, noticing a large man sitting on the other side of the room. He had obviously been checked-in and would be tended to before I would because I was not processed prior to be instructed to go across the hall for blood work. It was now 8:15 a.m., the time which my ultrasound was to be taking place and I was sitting in the waiting room.

Two more patients registered at the reception desk for their procedures and within half an hour, the first of them was called back to have her procedure done. WHAT? Mine was the first procedure scheduled for that day and now there were TWO patients ahead of me! Little did I know that life was about to become more absurd… the third patient was called in for her procedure!

I was livid! I needed to vent but the second receptionist was involved in a conversation with a guy who was explaining everything you might ever want to know about his health insurance, and probably how gravity works and the string theory. He was going to be tied up with receptionist #2 for a long time. Meanwhile, receptionist #1, the rude, crude, unprofessional snob was busy with a personal visit from a girlfriend. They had been chatting for quite a long while.

Gossip at Work Ignore Patients

Gossip at Work
Ignore Patients

I had had enough. I stopped my pacing and headed toward receptionist #1. Excusing myself as I interrupted her conversation, I somewhat loudly asked how much longer before I would be called for my procedure. She asked for my name and could not find me on her list of scheduled appointments, and then she asked when my appointment was. I answered in a voice loud enough for everyone in the office to hear, but not shouting, “My appointment was for 8:15 this morning. I was the FIRST patient here; you had to unlock the door for me! I was here before the techs or anyone else!”

She dialed back to the tech area and asked them how much longer before I would be called and someone told her they would call her back in ten minutes, they could not find my name. I returned to pacing while waiting for the tech to phone back. The tech phoned back to tell receptionist #1 that it would be another ten minutes before I would be called back. Ten minutes here, ten minutes there, thirty minutes trying to drain my blood, all added up to my being two hours delayed for the echocardiogram!

When I was finally called to the testing area, I explained to the tech that I was extremely agitated at the lack of professionalism with the front desk employees and that I would be SURE to accurately portray their actions when I send feedback to Integris, which the hospital always seeks after any procedure.

The echocardiogram was non-eventful, but my blood pressure was through the roof; typically I have VERY LOW blood pressure, even before surgical procedures. I have no tolerance for incompetent people in positions which require respectful attention and it obviously affected my blood pressure, maybe this was the scheme of things, maybe the hospital intentionally planted “Dumb and Dumber” at the reception desk in order to aggravate their cardiac patients into a state of duress!!!

My day at Integris Heart Center was nearly complete and I was beginning to feel light-headed from my fast for the cholesterol tests. Oh how I hoped the new lab tech would be more experienced at drawing blood from uncooperative veins. Unfortunately, she required another two jabs in different areas and a lot of digging and moving the needle around in my veins, and we still were not sure that there was enough blood for the last, fifth, vial.

Nearly a week has passed since this debacle and I have not heard anything from my cardiologist which caused me to assume that the echocardiogram was normal. However, after this experience at Integris Heart Center, I should know better than to assume anything, especially if the incompetent receptionists are a reflection of the staff. Regardless, I will have my results, rather, should have my results when I see the cardiologist this coming Thursday, January 16.

Conclusion: I intend to demand of any doctor who wants blood drawn that they write out the prescription so I can take it to Lab Corp myself. I have more faith in technicians who work in an independent medical laboratory than those who might be shifted around in a hospital environment where staff is limited in certain departments with high turnover. At a medical laboratory, there will always be one person whom can be counted on to successfully draw from the most obstinate, uncooperative veins.

More importantly, I will never be so complacent as to be misdirected by a nit wit clerk who has a Napoleonic complex.  

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4 responses to “Echocardiogram Debacle at Heart Center

  1. I feel your pain.

    Every trip to every doctor or hospital is an adventure. Lost paperwork, no record of appointment, no one who can find my one “live” vein. The doctor is in a meeting. There’s no technician available. The (fill in name of machine) is broken. And it’s lunchtime … office closed for the next hour.

    Today was the oncologist for me — while my husband needed labs for his MRI on Thursday. No paperwork on him, my appointment was suddenly an hour later than my records indicate. But that was BETTER than some recent appointments. Tomorrow I have an echo in Boston. How much worse can it get? I’m sure we will find out soon enough.

    Like

    • I was just thinking that when I read your question, “how much worse can it get?”, NEVER ask that question! 😀

      Good luck tomorrow! It sounds like I am in good company with you for the long haul, eh? We can share experiences. 😉

      Like

  2. I think we notice how bad it is because we spend more time at doctors’ offices and hospitals than most people. I had this same conversation with another “patron” in the waiting room today. It really IS worse than it used to be — and it wasn’t all that great before!

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  3. I will be writing a follow-up to this post as soon as possible. There has been a welcomed development from the hospital, who has totally restored my faith in the quality and esteem which surrounds Integris Heart Center’s impeccable reputation! One (or two) bad apples do NOT spoil the whole bunch! 😀

    Like

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