It's The Circle of Stupid

Oct 18, 2015

I really like my doctor. But I hate dealing with his office and staff.

He works at an office with 6 or 7 other doctors. It’s always crowded, and calling to book an appointment involves 10 minutes or more on the phone and a moderate likelihood of being disconnected.

I think the automated phone system at Hostile Medicine Ltd. reflects their attitude toward patients: making an appointment is option #7.

Let me illustrate what it’s like another way: I recently took the car in to have the tires replaced. The guy at the counter there showed me more care and compassion than the staff at Hostile Med.

When I went in for my regular physical in August I was diagnosed with diabetes. I kinda knew this was coming. My shoulder surgery a few years put me on a very sedentary trajectory and just about everyone on my father’s side of the family ended up with it in their 50s. But that’s another few blogs that will be coming in the future.

He quickly wrote a prescription, told me to lose weight, told me that there was a nutritionist on staff there at Hostile Medicine Ltd. (I had already asked if he could recommend one before he had told me the news) and then sent me on my way.

After dealing with a scheduling issue and 2 frustrating phone calls with Hostile Med’s nutritionist I decided it was time to move on. It may even be time to move on to a new primary care physician.

I have what some would call a “Cadillac” medical plan, although It’s not half as ugly or ostentatious in my opinion. (And I wish the premiums were as low as those lease prices they quote during baseball games.) I can “refer” myself to a specialist. I found one that takes my coverage and was pleased to find a reasonably well-designed website with great information about the doctors and what they do. I called and made an appointment. It was a few weeks away, but that was fine.

Nothing about this is urgent and I know what to do: get back to exercising, lose weight, and stop whining about my shoulder. But I had read conflicting information about what to eat, what the prescription I was given really does, and when to check blood my sugar. Even though my doctor had told I didn’t need to check my blood sugar, I got a device. (I like devices.)

I was directed back to the website to download intake forms in advance. Wow! Less wasted time at the first appointment! There was also a form to have my records transferred to them by my regular doctor.

The intake forms were PDF forms! Even better! Five pages of history and HIPAA bullshit was filled out and emailed very quickly.

This is where the fun starts. I received an email a few days later.

Good Afternoon,

When I printed out the New patient forms you filled out.
It printed out “BLANK.” Would you be able to fill out the new patients forms and email it back to us?

My first thought was “Why the hell would you print it out?” (Oh boy. I had no idea.)

My second was “Why is this my problem?” I downloaded their form and even filled it out using Acrobat Reader instead of one of the myriad other PDF readers to avoid issues. (I was once burned by Apple’s Preview.) I even saved and reopened to make sure the data was there before I sent it.

I opened the files again and did a print preview. The fields were empty! Something was wrong with those forms.

I replied:

When I open the file I still see all of my entries, but they will not print here either. I don’t even see them in a “print preview.”
I filled the form using Adobe Reader as instructed. Is there another app I should use?

The answer:

I would just say print out the new patient forms and just fill them out.

You can always bring them the day of your appointment.

So the solution was more work for me! I double checked their website but nope, they’re not affiliated with Hostile Med.

Curiosity finally got the best of me and I opened the form in Acrobat Pro and examined the form.


PDFs have form fields that won’t print on purpose. Could Adobe be any worse? (Don’t answer that.) This form, which they apparently want to print, had that attribute set. On every field on every page. I set them to visible and emailed it in with a note on how I got it to work.

No acknowledgement that the problem was on their end. But I was off the hook with regards to filling out five pages again, by hand.

Finally my appointment came around and I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office answering the kind of questions and learning the kinds of things that my doctor at Hostile Med apparently didn’t have time for.

She asked me if I had filled in an intake form and I explained that I had and had emailed it in.

“Oh.” The doctor said while looking at her computer. “I guess it wasn’t printed and scanned in yet.”

The mind reels.

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