Adventures in Healthcare Land

I had to discuss a patient under my care with a colleague, who works as a major local healthcare system (name withheld to avoid embarrassment). I spoke with her nurse on Friday, and was told to call back on Monday. Ok. 

I called Monday. I got a phone tree. I dialed the phone tree. I got a message, “Thank you for remaining on the line. Your call will be answered by the next available representative.” This helpful message would repeat every 30 seconds. I waited for 20 minutes (that's 40 times I got to hear it). Then Next Available Representative picked up and asked me for the medical record number of the patient at this [major medical institution]. 

“I don’t have that information” 

“Ok” says the available representative. “One moment please.”


I call back. I dial the phone tree.  I get the same helpful message, “Thank you for remaining on the line. Your call will be answered by the next available representative.” I wait. Again. For 10 minutes.

I again ask to speak with Dr. ______.

“Let me see if Dr. Is with a patient.”


Again, on hold. Wait 4 minutes.

Available representative comes back. “Dr. _______ is with a patient. Should I leave her a message?”

“I don’t know.” I respond. "I spoke with the nurse on Friday, and was told that to speak with Dr. _____, I dial this number, and ask to speak with her.” 

“Ok” says Available Representative. “Let me check with the nurse.” 

2 minutes later.

“Let me transfer you to a nurse”

Nurse, “Can you please verify the patient’s DOB?”

I give it to her.

“Can I put you on hold and see if Dr. _____ is available?”

“Sure” I say. 

On hold. 2 minutes. 

“Dr. _____ is finishing up with a patient, can I have her give you a call back?”

“Sure” I say. 

So, it took me 45 minutes to discover a) the doctor was busy and b) she would call me back. 

To be clear— this is a great doctor. I’d send a family member to her. She’s just trapped in a lousy system. 

Want to know what happens when you call Sequoia MD?

You call the office. One of three things will happen: someone (usually me) answers the phone. Or, Doris answers the phone, or you leave a voicemail. If it happens to go to voicemail, things get really complicated, and you have to make a decision:

You leave a message and I call you back, usually within a couple of hours, always same day. 

You try my cell. 

You send me a text message.

You send me an email. 

Don't believe me? Try it sometime, just to see what happens.