Details Matter

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There have been some improvements to the paperwork involved in doctor’s visits. In the past I have complained about filling out countless forms with the same information again and again, and how wasteful that seemed. It made me reluctant to even schedule a routine appointment for fear of the paperwork under which I would be buried. A year or two ago, however, my doctors’ office switched to an app that handles most of this for you. The app has all of my current information. I can schedule appointments through it, can get lab results, communicate with my doctor, see my prescriptions. All-in-all, as a patient, I’ve been pretty impressed by it.

As a software developer and one who manages software projects, however, there is at least one thing that bothers me about it: a lack of attention to certain details in the process–and details matter.

I scheduled my annual physical late last year using the app. My physical was scheduled for early in February. On the day of the appointment, I got up, had breakfast, and headed to the doctor. I used the app to check in, saw my doctor, and everything seemed quick and efficient. But by the time I’d finished chatting with the doctor at the end, and realized he was sending me home, I said, “Am I supposed to get blood drawn for the blood work?”

He said that he’d ordered the labs, had anyone told me about it?

They hadn’t.

Had I eaten in the last 8 hours?

I had.

He seemed puzzled. I explained that I made my appointment through the app. I told him that in the past, when I called for an appointment, they told me that there would be blood work. That was followed by a reminder email the day before, telling me I should not eat after midnight of the day of my appointment.

The doctor considered this and then said that this would explain why some patients weren’t getting this notice. Apparently, if you made your appointment through the app, this reminder wasn’t happening. Details matter.

When I checked out, I made a follow-up appointment (not through the app) to have the blood work done a few days later. It meant having to trek back to the doctor’s office, paying for parking again, fasting until the appointment was over, but I did it.

Later that afternoon, the results of my blood work arrived in my app. Everything was normal. But I wonder if anyone has reported this oversight with the app scheduler that I uncovered. And I wonder for next year: should I use the app to make my appointment, or just call?

Also, later that afternoon, I got a survey to see how well my blood work appointment went.

Written on February 10, 2022.

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