November 18, 2010


so i've been having some... hiccups... with customer servicey type things this month.

the first has been with my credit union, which i've been a member of for over 8 years, but which i'll be leaving this week after it took FOUR CALLS before they were able to restore my daily spending limit on my checking account to something above zero. ZERO DOLLARS ALLOWED PER DAY. on my debit card. not at all inconvenient, no!

the one that's really chapping my hide, though, is a new dermatologist office i went to recently. i've had SERIOUSLY terrible luck with dermatologists in this area. there was the one guy who refused to talk to me about anything but how i should start accutane immediately if i ever "wanted to be taken seriously" in a corporate environment. this was for a few bumps on my forehead, and he wanted me to immediately start popping a medication for severe cystic acne that can cause liver failure and severe birth defects as a first attempt at treatment. no thanks.

then there was the guy who i went to go see for a routine skin cancer screening. i'm high risk for skin cancer - very fair, have burned many times in my life, and have loads and loads of half-freckle/half-mole thingies that i've been advised to "keep an eye on." so i go to this guy, tell him what i'm there for, and among the many delightful comments he made were:
  • that skin cancer screenings were a "sham," and my previous derm had only told me i needed them to get more money from me;
  • that i should learn the ABCDs of skin cancer (which i obviously know already) and only come in if i was "sure" that i had something that looked cancerish;
  • that it was impossible to burn one's scalp (funny, i do it every time i'm outside in the summer and don't wear a hat);
  • that the spot that had just turned up on my cheek was nothing to worry about, it was just something i had to accept since i was "getting old." i was 27.

so when i went to this new guy last month, i was pleasantly surprised by how lovely & professional everything was. he checked me thoroughly, found 3 spots he was particularly concerned about - including the one on my face that i had expressly gone to the previous derm for, by the way - and took photos of them next to a ruler to document size. those went into my file, so that the next time i come in they can compare and see if they've grown or changed. but as he was reviewing the zoomed-in photo of a largeish freckle on my leg, he decided he didn't like the look of it so much that he wanted to remove it right then and there instead of waiting to see if it got more suspicious looking. so he gave me a quick numbing shot, sliced the sucker out, and sent it to the lab for biopsying. he told me not to be concerned about it, but i should call them back in 10 days to learn the results of the biopsy. i thanked him, and went on my merry way (albeit with a hole in my leg).

ten days later, i call his office. they tell me the results aren't in yet, but i should call back tomorrow.

i give them another day for leeway, and call back on day 12. the results aren't in yet.

me: ok, i thought i was told to call back 10 days after my appointment. what's going on?

receptionist: um, can i put you on hold? let me check.

(2 minutes later)

receptionist 1: ok, we DO have the results, the doctor is actually looking at them right this very moment! they just weren't in the system yet because he hadn't reviewed them yet. let me get your phone number and i'll call you in a little bit as soon as he's finished looking at them!

me: ok, my number is xxx. thanks.

...cut to 5 days later, when i still have not received a call. i call them on a tuesday, 3 weeks after my original appointment.

me: hi, i've been trying to get biopsy results for a while now, someone was supposed to call me back and never did.

receptionist 2: oh ok, what's your name? let me check. (pause) yeah.. your results aren't in the system yet. sorry.

me: uh, any reason why not....?

receptionist 2: oh, it's probably because the doctor has been out all week, and we can't put the results into the system until a doctor has looked at it.

me: oh, ok. i see. thanks. WAIT! NO. was he out all LAST WEEK as well? i called LAST WEEK and i was told the doctor had the results physically IN HAND, and someone was going to call me to tell me what he said.

receptionist 2: oh! gosh. ok. can i put you on hold? let me check into this.

(2 minutes later)

receptionist 2: ok, so the doctors are both gone for the day, and i'm not really sure what happened... but let me get your phone number and i'm going to call you back first thing tomorrow morning once they're back in and i can figure out what's going on.

me: (sigh) ok. my number is xxx.

...cut to 3 days after THAT. no call.


receptionist 3: hmm... yes, it looks like your results aren't in the system.


receptionist 3: oh... can i put you on hold for a minute? let me look into this.

(2 minutes later)

receptionist 3: ok, i don't really know what happened, but your results *weren't* here. i just called the lab and they're re-faxing your results directly to me right now, though. the doctor will get in at 10:30, and i'll have her review them first thing as soon as she gets here and call you immediately, ok?


receptionist 3: no, i really will call you.

me: ok. that would be nice. thank you.

cut to 2 hours later, when - trumpets please - she called back! praise be! it only took 45 calls from me to get my own lab results!

...which were that the cells looks "atypical" and they want me to come back in to excise everything else in the area, just in case.

so, look. this isn't the end of the world or anything, and it's likely just a precautionary measure anyway, but i'm more than a little ticked off that it took THAT MUCH proactive effort from me before they got around to informing me i might have skin cancer developing in my leg, you know? the whole time i was involved in the no-results no-call-back charade, i assumed the test would be negative, because who would lose / forget to call when the results were "NEEDS ADDITIONAL PARTS OF LEG REMOVED SO IT DOESN'T BECOME CANCER," you know?

so i'm a bit torn, at this point. because clearly the DOCTORING part of this place is the best treatment i've received by far - it should be noted that this same mole also existed, and was ignored, by mr "skin cancer screenings are a sham" - but my faith in their ability to notify me of when doctoring is needed is a little shaky.


  1. I say go back, let them remove the offending parts of the area (since we trust them to take it seriously and "doctor" it appropriately), and give them one shot at following up with you, results-wise. If they mess it up again, time to look elsewhere. But at least you will already have the suspicious cells off your body in the meantime.

  2. I'm sorry about your atypical cells.

    I am also in doctor design agony because while my rheumatoid arthritis doctor is awesome, her entire staff sucks balls. I deal with them more than I deal with her and really it's taking up too much of my life for me to call repeatedly to make sure they do their job. The staff makes a practice just as much as the doctor.

    GAH! Let us know what you decide.

  3. Blergh, what a nightmare. I've been there! No, really, EXACTLY THERE. (Hello, fellow sister in cancer-prone-ness!)

    I would stick with this doctor for the excise and see if they can get it together office management-wise. For me, it's most important to trust the actual practitioner and the quality of care they're giving you, and you can find ways to work around the imperfect office management. It's frustrating, but not as frustrating as feeling like the doctor himself is ignoring your concerns. Given your history, I'd give this doc another shot.

  4. yeah, I'd be pissed. PISSED.

  5. I would be absolutely livid. Sorry you're dealing with this crap, lady.

    I like Pseudostoops's plan of action - the actual doctoring part is the most important, right?

  6. Yikes!! There's got to be a better system that the one you are dealing with.

    I like the place I've taken my son to in Lansdowne; if you want the info, just e-mail me.

  7. That sounds pretty ridiculous. I mean really, it's not like you're doing them any favors, calling them repeatedly. It's not YOUR job to call people with results. It's almost like that's THEIR job! Anyway, hope everything goes smoothly from here on out.

  8. I used to have a doctor's office like that - the doctor herself was great, but every single thing that had to deal with calls or results or billing or appointments was so bad that I had to change doctors because it became so frustrating.

    Good luck going forward - hopefully they got everything and you won't have any more problems.

  9. What an awful situation.

    I have to disagree with others that you should stick with them if the doctor is great. Is he great if, after 3 weeks, he wasn't noticed that you never got your results back? Is he great that after a million phone calls he still hasn't made sure you have your results (every call is recorded in your medical record)? I'd find a new doc. Sorry you're having such a hassle, but good for you for being proactive about your health!

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  11. I *hate* being ignored. Especially about something so anxiety provoking. That's really irresponsible. At least call back when you say you will and tell me you're still trying to get an answer for me. SHEESH!

    I'd go in and tell the doctor about your experience. It could be the doctor is just too busy (good with patients real time, sucky at follow-up) or it could be that the receptionist crew have no clue what they're doing and the doctor should know about it.

    Either way, it's good you're getting the situation taken care of. Better safe.

  12. What I would do: I'd finish out the process with them since they've already started. Let's just assume everything will be okay with you health-wise.

    Then, look elsewhere for the future. There has to be somewhere that has a great doctor and office staff. Or at least one that has their isht together and won't keep lying to you. It might be hard to find but keep looking. It's great to find a doctor who is thorough and competent and you like. But if you can't even get your test results, all that medical competency doesn't matter in the end.

  13. OMFG is right! Jesus. That's a nightmare. I've had "atypical" cells and had to go back in. Now have a nice chunky scar on my back thanks to that suspicious mole. But I would rather have the scar then possibly-cancerous-cells growing on my back.

    It really sucks that you aren't having good luck with derms there. Can you check yelp? I have the same issue with gynos here in Seattle. Yet to find a good one so have been putting off going and THAT is a very bad idea.

    Hope the next appointment goes well and THEY CALL YOU!

  14. *Head explodes*

    OMG. How frustrating!

    I'd tell the doctor the next time you see him. We had the same thing with our vet (great vet, great demeanor), but his office staff SUCKED. We talked to him about it, he expressed major surprise and promised to look into it, and so far, things since then have been much better in the office management department.

  15. OMG, that is ridiculous!! My grandfather was a fine, upstanding dermatologist and I'm embarrassed for his profession (long dead, may he RIP), as if *I* have ever had anything to do with it!

    I also loved your lead-in of "chapped my hide" in a story about dermatologists. Hee hee! Because hide...? youknow, skin chapped....? I amuse myself.

  16. I have to agree with everyone else that this is beyond frustrating. If you were able to keep your composure on those phone calls, then I'm also impressed, because I would have been throwing 'tude left and right.

    I also agree in staying with this doc for now, but I guess another option would be getting a recommendation to another. Did you have a derm at home that you really liked? Or any friends down here that love their doc? (Though, I'm sure you've thought of that.)

  17. Oh my goodness your doctor's customer service is NOT okay. I can't believe that they didn't call you back with the results!

    I would maybe give them a second chance, but next time you have an appt, tell the doctor your experience. Maybe he needs new staff?

  18. I hate dermatologists. I've been to many and they all suck. They each have a favorite regimen for acne and will absolutely not deviate from it, even if after months of sticking to it, it does NOT WORK. They will always tell you that you must not be following the instructions properly. Yes, because I enjoy still getting zits in my 30s.

  19. This is SO INFURIATING!! And I've gotten scalp burns, too. QUITE PAINFUL, those imaginary burns that only you and I get in our OLD AGE! (I'm about 10 years older than you are, so the derms would probably be surprised I was still alive.)

    I can't believe they lied to you so blatantly about him HAVING THEM IN HIS HANDS.

  20. OH! It turns out I have a possibly relevant story! We started with a new dentist and had two major screw-ups in our first two visits. Both screw-ups were incredibly inconvenient AND totally office-staff-related. So I wrote a letter to the dentist himself, explaining what had happened. He called me HIMSELF (I always feel like I'm hearing from god or the president or something, when a doctor is actually on the actual telephone) and he was PISSED that it had happened. He had no idea, obvs: he hires the staff and assumes they're doing their staff thing while he does his dentist thing. He CALLED A MEETING of the office staff and gave them what-for, and then the next time we went in there was some embarrassing bowing-and-scraping from the staff.

  21. Eek. That's rough week(s) of bad customer service. I know things like that can happen but that doctor's office REALLY dropped the ball. yikes.

  22. It AMAZES me how BLASE derms are about cancer screenings. I point blank asked mine during my last visit if I should come in next year for one, he was all "eh, whatever." DUDE. WTF?

  23. I hope everything turns out ok!

    The no-calling back does not surprise me at all :( I am surprised now-adays when people DO actually call me back. Isn't that sad?

  24. I just went to the dermatologist yesterday. Despite having to wait longer than I would have liked, the seemed good. I have to have some areas checked out, so I'll let you know how they do with that.

  25. I had the same situation recently. Well, minus the 45 calls to the office to get the results...

    I had a mole on my stomach that I've had for some time removed because the Derm said it looked suspicious. Low and behold when the results came back it was a moderately dysplastic nevus.

    They asked me to return for further excision. I left the doctor's office a second time with 14 stitches! The procedure wasn't painful at all, and I am happy to know that they got it all off of me.

    I think you should definitely go back for the excision. I felt much more at ease knowing that I had. Good luck to you!

  26. As someone in the medical profession, I always cringe hearing stories like this.

    IF you are willing to give it a try, I would definitely concur with what Swistle has said. Many times doctors operate under the impression that the rest of the medical team (office staff included) are doing their job, as they have a small amount of time to tend to office admin type stuff.

    In my experience, we are trained to approach providing care as a service, with patient centered practices. This is not that. Obviously this can get lost over time (I'm new, so service excellence is still very important to me), but for real - we talked about this in my first year of medical school recently. So I would give your doctor your feedback and perhaps he will do something productive with it.