I had to go to the hospital today for an outpatient thyroid ultrasound. My appointment was for 11:00 a.m. I was instructed to arrive twenty minutes prior to my appointment time (despite the fact that I pre-registered over the phone). So, I call my Mom and ask her to drive from ANOTHER STATE to come and watch my kiddos, since Dear Hubby is working.
I arrive at the radiology department by 10:35 a.m. Mind you, that meant I had to leave my house by 10:15 a.m., drive to the hospital, hike across the parking lot, wander the maze of halls, and find the appropriate desk. But I did it, and I was early. Early, just like my Mamma taught me.
I review the billing information on a single sheet of paper, and signed another single sheet of paper. Took less than two minutes. I was instructed to go sit in the radiology waiting room until the sonographer could see me.
Finally, at NOON I went back to the radiology desk. The gentleman at the desk looked up and said, “May I help you?” in a tone that indicated he wanted to do anything BUT help me. As sweetly as I could, I said, “I would like to know how much longer you think I will need to wait, as my appointment was scheduled for an hour ago.”
As slowly as he could, he picked up a folder, asked my last name, looked at a piece of paper, and then started to reply, “Well…”
About that time, the sonographer arrived and asked me to follow her.
She escorted me into the ultrasound room, where she instructed me to lie down.
She gave me a rolled towel and rolled sheet to place under my neck because she didn’t have any pillows.
The computer wouldn’t allow her to access my prior thyroid ultrasound images, so she had to leave the room.
When she returned, she elevated the exam table and apologized that my feet would be lower than my head because part of the table controls were broken.
All this while profusely apologizing for my extended wait. She explained that scheduling had double booked her for multiple appointments, that she was the only sonographer on this particular shift, and that she’d had to respond to an emergency on another floor.
By the time it was over, I had spent nearly two and a half hours getting a thyroid ultrasound that took about twenty minutes.
I know that there are often “staffing challenges” in any clinical setting. I know that everyone is cutting back to cut costs. It makes sense to me. If you schedule fewer people and make them carry twice the load, you pay fewer wages but can bill more (never mind patient satisfaction). I get it. As a nurse, I’ve worked in the clinical setting. I KNOW it can get crazy.
However, I also know that I have been in hospital and clinical settings where the policy was to offer an apology and/or explanation to the patient if they had to wait more than thirty minutes past their schedule appointment time. One office even offers the patient an opportunity to reschedule their appointment if they had to wait longer than thirty minutes.
Now the hospital will bill my health care insurance to cover the cost of the ultrasound. The average cost of a hospital outpatient thyroid ultrasound in my area is $655.
The radiologist will send a separate bill for the few minutes he has to spend looking at my ultrasound images and dictating his report. The average cost for this service is $94.
That is nearly $750 for a twenty minute procedure. Close to $37.50/minute, which I am sure is more than what the ultrasound tech is paid for an hour of her service.
I do not begrudge them billing for their time and/or services. As a healthcare worker, I appreciated making a decent wage, and understand that the bill covers the cost of the equipment, the supplies, the room, the wages, etc, etc.
However, MY time is worth something, too. That two hours could have been spent playing with my kids, getting groceries, cleaning house, or any number of other things. After all, Ben Franklin said, “Lost time is never found again.”
So, what I want to know is, can I bill for wasted time?
Lady V dZine