Darn It Jim: Attention to Detail in the Health Care Industry

A while back, I wrote a series of posts about how it took two years to get a single pediatrician’s bill settled with Aetna. I spent two years and many hours on the phone. I titled my series "Darn It Jim, I’m a Computer Geek, Not A Medical Billing Specialist". I based that, of course, on Dr. McCoy’s famous "I’m a doctor not a…" lines from the original Star Trek series.

When I was in boot camp (United States Naval Recruit Training), I was introduced to the phrase "attention to detail". I did a lot of push-ups over the concept of attention to detail, both for my failure to pay attention to detail and for other members of my company failing to pay attention. In the military, failing to pay attention to detail can cost lives.

What happens while lives aren’t exactly at stake? What about livelihoods that are at stake? What about a family budget? I’ve ranted before about my run-ins with health care. This is a very vital industry, yet it does cause a lot of hate and discontent in society.

Last week, my two year old decided to stick his hand in the car door as it was being closed. This resulted in an emergency room visit. Don’t worry, the ER did fine. He broke one of his little fingers. The ER put a splint on him, wrapped his hand, and referred him to a doctor. My wife went straight to the pediatrician, who has an office close to the hospital, to get a referral. She then called to set an appointment. When she called to set the appointment, the staff went through the typical questions including PATIENT’S DATE OF BIRTH.

My wife showed up for the appointment, and when the doctor came in, guess what the first thing out of his mouth was (as reported by my wife)?

"I don’t work on children this young."

Sure, AFTER his office collected a copay and billed our insurance for the visit, he lets my wife know that he doesn’t deal with two year olds. Anyone care to guess where the attention to detail broke down? At least he rewrapped the hand and referred my wife to another doctor who *might* work with two year olds (which he does).

I think doctors and their staffs should have to do push-ups for every attention to detail error that they commit.



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