I hope you had a terrific week. I’ve been busy, writing a lot, and am on the move again. I was saddened by the recent act of violence in France, and I hope that the French elections will happen peacefully.
I had an experience last week that was so frustrating I wanted to share it with you, as I think we all run into similar experiences now. One of my children needed some ongoing health maintenance care (nothing too serious, but worth doing), and I decided to contact both of the big highly respected university hospitals in San Francisco. Both offer top notch care and are respected well known institutions. I didn’t have a name of who to call, so decided to call the right department in each hospital, which seemed like a simple project, to gather information, and who might offer the most appropriate options for health care. It was not a life threatening situation, but important enough to me to warrant some research on the subject. And bluntly put, I ran into a wall. A call that should have taken maybe ten minutes to each hospital, took me SIX AND A HALF HOURS of constant calling and total frustration before I ever got to speak to a human at one hospital, and never got to one at all at the other. I went from one robot voice to the next, got shifted into dead end extensions, reached voice mails in some cases, pressed buttons, called new numbers, and it went on and on and on and on, until I finally reached a human at one of the two hospitals, and no one at the other. At the hospital where I got no human after all my calls, someone finally called me back the next day to tell me that my child had JUST missed the age cut off and they made no exceptions, that they were not accepting new patients anyway, but would call me back in six months, in October, to then put us on a wait list which was going to be at least six months long, but I MIGHT be able to get an appointment NEXT April, maybe, but maybe not until next July (NOT this July!!). So we’re talking about waiting 12 to 15 months before we could see a doctor. At the other hospital, when I finally reached a living person and not a recording or a robot after six and a half hours on the phone, they gave me great information, had someone call me back within the hour who was absolutely wonderful and we got an appointment for 3 days later. What a difference between the two, but I still had to spend almost seven hours on the phone, determined to fight my way through the maze of cyberhell to get the information we needed. I dropped everything I was doing that day to do it. What happens if you don’t have the time or patience, can’t spend 7 hours on the phone, don’t understand the messages or the system, or never get lucky enough to reach a human? What do people do? Forget it? Give up? Not get medical help when they need it? I don’t think my experience was unique. And what are you supposed to do with a 15 month wait to see a doctor?? It reminded me of when I was working on the streets with the homeless, would refer them for medical care, and they would sometimes be put on a wait list for 8 to 18 months, most of them would have been dead at the end of that time, and some were. I think it’s a terrible statement about how we have mis-used technology, to build an impenetrable wall around services we need, medical people we can’t reach, where we get fobbed off with waiting lists of more than a year, IF they even bother to call you back. What happens to people who don’t understand the messages, can’t make themselves understood to a robot, and just don’t have the tenacity or skills to get through? I became so determined I was not going to give up until I got someone. It also showed me the difference between the two institutions, one where they leapt in to help us once I reached them, the other where they simply didn’t care and fobbed us off for 15 months, or would have, except that we had missed the age limit by a few months. Then what?? You just live with the problem. In the era of high technology health care, with such enormous advancements in science and health and new information, what good does it do us if we can’t even reach health care providers, and get pushed off on a wait list for more than a year? I found the whole experience shocking. And I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I was to actually reach a human, who was nice, helpful, and gave us an appointment.
And if this is how we treat humans now at medical institutions, I can’t even think about what it is like trying to get your washing machine repaired or call a plumber. Everything is voice mail and robots now, press #1 for this and #5 for that, where you get nowhere and no one calls you back, or it disconnects, or shifts you entirely into the wrong service, and there is no one to explain it to. There is something VERY wrong with our systems if we have used technology to make life this complicated, and replaced human beings with machines that don’t “get it”. Whose life have we simplified with this?? Certainly not ours. I was so grateful for the help I got, and shocked at how hard it was to cut through the red tape in Cyberhell. What can we do about it? How can we change it? Is this how it’s going to be now? It was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in years, and I think we all run into it now. Some of the old systems, which actually used humans, worked so much better!!!
Have a great week, and stay out of Cyberhell, if we can!!