It’s easier than you think!
Patients with chronic illnesses, see specialists for routine appointments four times a year. Many, like me, are on life extending drugs that can cause damage to kidneys, liver and cause infections, so four times a year becomes a normal routine.
I used to be upset because the blood test results my doctor would be reading to determine the course of my scleroderma and sarcoidosis, was often 3 or more months old. In some cases, as old as 1 year. That’s because I developed a routine where I saw my doctor first, then went to the lab to get my blood work, then 3 months later meet with my doctor and talk about 3 month old blood work, but have new symptoms that were less than a month old. One day, my local nurse practitioner I saw while using traditional insurance, suggested I call two weeks before my next appointment and order my own blood work. So, I tried it.
First, I tried calling. The office staff did not understand what I was trying to do. Because even though I had a order from three months prior, that order had expired and a new one needed to be made. And they could not understand why a patient would call in and request her own CBC, Chem Panel and Sed Rate. I was not talking like a patient. I could sense their frustration over the phone. Rather than get angry, I went into the office and made the request in person.
I had no appointment. The waiting room was packed. It was 2005, and the usual wait for a doctor’s appointment was two hours. My ex-husband and I owned a small business together, which made it possible to have insurance, but that’s a whole other post….
Temecula and Murrieta had grown so fast in the housing boom and medical practitioners were up to their elbows in over bookings. I stood in line at the reception desk and simply said, ” Hi, my name is Karen. I have an upcoming appointment with Dr (Name withheld) and he will need current blood work. May I request an order for blood work from him?”
Yes, they did look a little confused. The receptionist asked me to take a seat and she would be right with me. So, I took a seat. I expected to wait so I brought a book. This was before tablets. (Could we call that Post Book Era or PBE, maybe Pre Tablet? Whatever.)
Te receptionist called me back to the desk. She asked me to write down my request and she would call me when the order was ready for me to pick up and take to the lab. (This was also before lab orders could be sent electronically.) So, I wrote a friendly greeting, told my doctor about my idea and listed the tests.
A few days later, I received a call from m doctor’s office and was told my lab orders were ready. A week and a half later, I met with my doctor for my “routine” appointment. He was impressed by having such current blood work. To be honest, I was happy to be talking about what was going on with me right now, and not three months ago.
I made it my routine to call his office and the receptionists knew exactly what I needed, because I went in person and explained what I needed. It took up extra time, but saved me time in the long run. My phone calls would sound something like this:
“Hi, this is Karen Vasquez. I need to get an order for my labs.”
The reply: “Sure Karen, what tests do you need?”
“Sure, Karen. Talk to you in a few days when the orders are ready.”
Now, I manage my scleroderma and sarcoidosis and receive treatment at my local Veteran’s Hospital. Labs are in the computer, no calls need to be made. I also know that many with scleroderma, or many with a chronic illness (or two) do not enjoy the care I get. I am very lucky to have access and I know it. I hope that my posts help others become their own best advocates. It;s possible. It’s frustrating, but there are so many different types of chronic illnesses that share many symptoms, we need to know what we need, so that our providers get it right.
So, if you skipped to the end:
Request your lab orders before your doctor’s appointment is you want to. Don’t be afraid to ask or speak the “language” your doctors and providers do. And if you have a boyfriend who tells you to “stop talking like you are a doctor, because you aren’t. Stop trying to act like one.” He’s threatened by your intelligence. His reptilian brain has not evolved to match his human body. Break up with his dumbass. Just sayin’….
Links in this post:
To help cure scleroderma, please visit Bounce to a Cure.
To learn about Scleroderma Research, visit Scleroderma Research Foundation founded by scleroderma patient Sharon Monskey.
To find a scleroderma support group near you, visit The Scleroderma Foundation.
Also, check out Scleroderma of Trinidad and Tobago.
So many orgs, please check out The Mighty Turtle on Facebook for more.