My examination has uncovered that the health care system has been infected with a serious communication virus resulting in lack of information gathering between patients and health care providers. Unfortunately, the virus is spreading and there is no vaccine in sight to cure it.
I recently examined an old patient of mine called the Health Care System -- or HCS as we fondly call him or her (the preference is yours).
My examination shows HCS is in critical shape. The symptoms are too numerous to mention but I would like to discuss just one of HCS's multiple maladies.
My examination has uncovered that HCS has been infected with a serious communication virus resulting in lack of information gathering between patients and health care providers. Unfortunately, the virus is spreading and there is no vaccine in sight to cure it.
It has infected almost everyone involved with HCS, including physicians, other health care providers and health care agencies.
For example, I recently called a health care agency concerning one of my patients. I received a voice message saying that the person I was calling was not available, but to call another number.
I called that number and then two other numbers as directed, and each time I was greeted by a voice message providing me yet other number to call.
Sadly, I never reached a human being whom I could talk to for help with my patient's problem.
I'm sure this is not an unusual scenario.
Such an experience can be very upsetting, especially to patients who have urgent questions about their health.
With all of the high-tech communication gadgets we now have available, you would think our ability to talk to our health care providers would improve.
Although e-mail, at times, can be helpful, unfortunately, other high-tech gadgets -- like voice messaging -- are now being used as road blocks.
How many times have you heard, when calling a medical facility, "We are unable to answer the phone right now but please leave a message and we will get right back to you. If this is an emergency, call 911"?
And, getting "right back to you" may be even days or not at all. This communication gap between patient and health-care providers needs to change.
I am not optimistic, unless some of the billions of dollars now proposed to treat my ailing HCS patient are allocated to having a human being answer the phone.
But don't count on it.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.