What I learned at the ER…

So, last Monday I had to go to the ER because I’m mildly stupid and extremely clumsy.  Now, I am not a doctor going person.  The only doctor I go to is the Optometrist, because that’s more like a shopping trip for people who love glasses.  The last time I was at the ER was when I was about 2 or 3, which I obviously don’t remember but I assume a lot has changed since then.

So, I first learned that everyone talks very quickly and you’re not allowed to read anything you sign.  In fact, you’re lucky if they even tell you what you’re signing.  I first signed my Consent to Treatment, which I’m pretty familiar with thanks to my job.  So no problem with that.  After that was signed, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on, perhaps it was the blood loss that was distracting me.

Fast Forward to my discharge. I’m handed a bunch of insurance papers and such.  The woman at the desk mumbles something while she hands them to me.  I flip to the first page to figure out what is going on and what I’m signing.  The woman says “It’s insurance.  If you want your insurance to pay, you sign it.” I felt really pressured and ill-informed about what I was being given.

I went back today for my wound check/follow-up.  Once again, they take my ID and insurance and such and quickly take me back to do the check up.  But while I’m waiting for the docs, this guy comes in and says something hardly comprehensible about my insurance and when do I want to pay my co-pay?  He tells me the amount and I say I can pay before leave, at which time he offers to take my credit card then and there.  I’m really taken aback because I feel like that is an inappropriate offer.  I was fully cognizant and I’m well educated in paperwork and such, so I declined saying I’ll wait and I ask his name to make sure I remember.  However, I feel like people in this situation could be very easily taken advantage of.  I think it is inappropriate and far too easy to take advantage of someone in a medical office by taking their credit card.  It would be too easy for a staff member to steal the information or overcharge you.  IDK, but it wasn’t okay with me.  Then, when I go to leave and make my copayment, the doctor comes out and says “oh, wait, you need to sign this before you leave.”  Again, I ask what I’m signing.  His very disturbing response: “Uhh, I don’t know.   Hold on.  Oh, this is your wound cleaning instructions.  Oh, this just said that we explained to you how to take care of the wound.”  Even though he actually didn’t do this, I signed it.  I wasn’t about to give him shit and cleaning a cut isn’t difficult.

In addition to not being able to read things, I would like to talk about the lack of informed consent for procedures.  As I said, I don’t go to doctors a lot.  My experience was pretty simple, clean, x-ray to check for class, clean, stitch, wrap, and go.  But even for this, they had to give me meds, local anesthesia and such.  But, other than asking if I had any allergies, I was never given any info about the medications I was being given.  I understand that I was in an ER, but again I was fully cognizant once I stopped bleeding, I was calm, I like to think I was pretty chipper for an ER patient.  But no one talked to me about what they were doing for more than 30 seconds, never was it asked if I was okay with what was happening.  The doctors and nurses were nice, but as far as Informed Consent, it was totally absent.

Last year, I also had to go to the ER with the bf, who was super sick.  They did SOOOO many tests on him!  Ultrasounds, CT scans, X-rays!  Shit son, they threw the whole battery at him.  What did this result in?  A bottle of antibiotics and an $8000 bill.  Never, at any point was he asked if it was okay to do all these tests or if he consented to them or even what they all meant.

I have been told (yeah, this feels like I’m going to tell you a myth about Leprechauns or something) that you can refuse certain treatments.  But, the catch is, they never ask you if you’re willing to do them in the first place.  Essentially, you have to jump up and down like a child or go on a rampage in order to get your medical treatment explained to you.

So yeah.  I am a better person now for knowing what being an adult hospital patient means.  It means being forced to sign things without being able to read them and having no understanding of what’s being done to you.  Oh, and for some reason, you can never see your medical file.  Doctors are really resistant to this for some reason, even though it belongs to you.  I really want to stress that:  YOUR MEDICAL FILE BELONGS TO YOU AND YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SEE IT WHENEVER YOU WANT.

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2 Responses to What I learned at the ER…

  1. amatorium says:

    This is a fantastic entry. When I was in the hospital last semester, I had so many procedures done. I was scared so they all felt necessary, but then was discharged with a prescription for a controlled substance and no peace of mind. The tests (chest x-ray, ECG, etc.) all now feel so unnecessary. So now, as I dodge the bills 5 months later, I’m exactly 0% better off.

  2. It really seems like hospitals take advantage of their patients.

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