Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Well, the honeymoon is over. The divorce is final. I am no longer married to bi-weekly, 15-minute physical therapy sessions. No, I'm officially left to do (and count) leg lifts all on my own. If you read my blog from last Friday, then you know how I was so desperately trying to redevelop a positive opinion of the post-op physical therapy industry. With a history of experiences at PT facilities that only conjured up words such as "incompetent," "useless," "needless," "insurance scam," and, oh, did I say, "incompetent," "useless," "needless," "insurance scam?"

Granted, I have more resolve and determination than most, so I'm willing to endure more pain and work harder at recover than is expected of the typical "post-op" victi . . . err, I mean patient, not including the fact that simple knee surgeries require less specialized equipment to re-strengthen than more "sophisticated" injuries, I could probably make a full recover regardless of any intervention by "professionals." With that said, I respect my surgeons, and even though they are business partners in the PT facilities they recommend (I can't blame them for that!), I do my best to fulfill their prescription for my recover, even if it means paying money to do leg lifts on a table in a brand-spanking-new high-dollar facility.

That's where I was last Friday as I entered the PT place. I was immediately on guard, looking for ANY reason to find fault in the entire process (can you blame ME?) Although I didn't mention it in my previous blog, I was quickly unimpressed with the office staff. Not only were they not very friendly, they were too casual to pass for professional, offering vague instructions regarding the whole check-in-I-need-to-see-your-insurance-card process. They then proceeded to make fun of my checks, purple ones that I seldom used. The check was somewhat wrinkled and had a few coffee stains on it from riding in the console of my car. Had they and I had any emotional investment, I would have passed their rollicking as friendly persiflage, but as the entire staff got a laugh at my expense, and the woman processed my check like she was holding the ebola virus, complete with disgusted look on my face, I felt angered. In ensured everyone behind the counter, quite hyperbolically, that I was confident the banks would still acknowledge the paper voucher with my signature on it. "Did you change the oil with this check," she asked from behind the counter. I answered indignantly and facetiously among the crowded waiting room, "Well, you know, when it's all you've got . . . ."

Things were NOT going well. I only hoped the therapist could redeeem her office staff.

She absolutely did.

I had a wonderful therapy session, and I am STILL impressed with Katie. Read the other blog to see why. But that brings us to today.

As I checked out last Friday, I discussed the full schedule of my future visits with the "check hater." Tuesdays and Fridays would not work for me because of Friday Night Football (all caps.) We decided, together, verbally, out loud, vocally, with a witness, that I would come every Tuesday and Thursday for the next 4 weeks either at 4:45 or 5:00. As I was writing all this down, simply because that's how thorough I am, another office staff member said deigningly, "Oh, she'll print that all out for you!" I knew she didn't like my purple checks either. I assured her that a duplicate copy of a Tuesday/Thursday schedule wouldn't hurt anyone. I think my grin came off as sincere. I was handed a piece of paper that had the dates of my future appointments. I say many calender dates: 10/7/08 10/x/08 . . . . The computer program had a row an column for seemingly everything. Nowhere was there a column for "Day of the Week," however there was a column for "Length" of therepy session. 15 minutes filled every row. Before I left, I was reminded of the $25 dollar fee for any appointment that is not cancelled at least a day in advance. "No problem," I thought. "Tuesdays and Thursdays, like we agreed. Show up at 4:45." I've GOT it.

Since that first day, last Friday, I have actually been looking for this 2nd session on Tuesday, today. Although I had been making great progress on my own over the weekend, my quads seemed unnecessarily soar, and I was anxious to ask Katie, the expert, if I was pushing it too hard. Since I arrived at the facility 15 minutes early, as I am wont to do (character flaw), I decided to check the voice mails on my cell phone, something I am NOT wont to do. As I sat in th parking lot of the PT place, I listened to a voice mail from Monday, yesterday, at 5:16. It was from the PT people:
"You had an appointment today at 5:00. It's now 5:15, and you're not here. Can we expect you today? Can we expect you at your next appointment on Wednesday? Please let us know. I'd like remind you that there is a $25 charge for cancelled or missed appointments. Have a nice day."
I actually added that last sentence, but the rest of the message was true to form. I walked inside, dubious as to whether they would acknowledge their professional gaffe. As I entered the door, two women laid eyes upon me. One was the "purple check hater" who scheduled my appointments, the other was a new lady I hadn't seen before. They reacted like they recognized me, but acted like they didn't. With nobody in the waiting room, the place seemed "closed for the evening."

I quickly, directly, and without hesitation explained the quandary I found myself in. "You must be Kevin," the new lady replied. Great! I thought. They've been talking about me, or at least expecting me. As it turns out, this FIRST week, my sessions were SUPPOSED to be on Monday and Wednesday, not the Tuesday/Thursday rotation I had agreed upon with the now silently grinning woman sitting compliantly behind the counter. I looked the "purple check hater" straight in the eyes and said, "we agreed on Tuedays and Thurdays!" Anticipating the easy-money seeking quip regarding missed appointments, I said to both, "I don't think it's fair that I should have to pay the $25 fee for a missed appointment I didn't know I had."

Almost before I could conclude my sentence with the sincerest, calmest gravity I could muster in a time like that, the new lady interceded with "we will wave the fee this time as a courtesy, but we DID give you a printed schedule of your visits."

I could hardly contain my gratitude at her understanding and thoughtfulness. Hundred of things ran through my mind as a possible response: "You want to talk about courtesy!! How about the courtesy of saying one thing and doing another? How about NOT waiving a $25 dollar fee in my face at every chance you get? How about ME charging YOU with a fee for the gas and time I've wasted in coming to see you today? How about I make fun of YOUR checks, or better yet, we just acknowledge societies different form of payments, take our money, and shush?"

I said nothing more than, "Thank you."

As I contemplated where the conversation would go from there and whether I was going to continue going to that place, as the "purple check hater" handed me ANOTHER copy of my schedule that STILL disagreed with what she and I spoke about, the new lady's voice broke the silence: "You're next visit is October first at 5:00. Can you make that one?"

I felt the blood rush up, then I forced it down. With the additional copy of my paper schedule in hand, I said, "No. I cannot make that one, for I believe the first of October is tomorrow, call it a Wednesday. Either way, it is NOT a Tuesday or Thursday. In fact, I will NOT be able to make any more of the scheduled visits, regardless of when we think they might be. Please cancel them all. I really don't appreciate any of this."

I walked out, punching myself in the gut for not lashing out more, only causing myself more damage. I'm sure the two office ladies had a good laugh at my expense then brought up my stained purple checks again. I was livid . . .

. . . .but relieved. I didn't have to go back. No more $20 co-pays for 15 minutes of leg lifts that I do at home 10 times over for free.

As I drove home, I thought of how the two office ladies would explain the situation to Katie, realizing that they would portray me as an out-of-control, anti-establishment maniac who does'nt know his his days of the week from his preferable forms of payment. I felt bad for Katie, who should by every professional right, deserve the income generated from my rehab. I also felt relieved that I would be able to monitor myself, and to heal and progress at an accelerated rate that would have astounded the health care professionals anyway.

I can't wait to tell my doctor that he will only get a return on his business investment if he can get his people to successfully schedule a patient's return.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I certainly hope no one has that kind of experience at OUR office. It does make me determined to listen more frequently/closely to the interchange of our front office staff with our patients. I agree that you had every right to be more verbally upset--but you should feel proud of yourself that you chose the "higher ground". Love, Mom

kwkorpi said...

That's not a bad idea to pay closer attention at the front counter. Giving a patient an appointment card with the date, day, and time, then verbally repeating the same information to them as you hand it to them is a good idea.

Handing someone a computer spreadsheet printout of 8 consecutive appointments showing only the date and time is a nice START, but it is meaningless if the verbal information is inconsistent with the printed info.

Moreover, having the DAY of the appointment is critical. Most of us are aware that today is Wednesday, let's say, but fewer of us know whether it is September 30th, September 31st(which doesn't even exist), or October 1st.

Dates are easily confusticated. Days less so. The point is, I looked at my appointment card several times to verify the time. The date of 09-28-08 in column II never jumped out at me as not being the agreed upon Tuesday, which was actually 09-29-08. I WOULD have easily recognized, though, an "M" or "Mon" or "Monday" instead of the "T" or "Tue" or "Tuesday" I was expecting.

As a teacher of upper-level math, I know that it is impossible to make yourself too clear.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm glad you are back to your feisty self and that your students are glad to have you back. Keep up those exercises though! Don't want you hobbling around in 6 months again.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least they waived the rescheduling fee...
And, I'm glad you controlled your emotions. I doubt the "purple check hater" would have understood too many of the vocabulary words you use when you're angry.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is 'wow'.