Yesterday I spent two frustrating hours handling a problem that was the result of a minor mistake made last July. The gist of the story is that the quantity on one of my prescriptions was wrong. I admit I noticed it, but attributed the reason for it to some limitation set by the insurance company. That has happened before on another prescription. What I didn’t think about was that I would run out of medicine long before my next checkup, and be refused any more without doctor approval.
Now that everything is on computers and my doctor carries a laptop one would think that any and all communication would be a simple thing. Guess again! Doctor out of the office. Pharmacist insistent on following the prescription. Faxes sent and ignored. An hour of talking and waiting and no meds.
I finally went to the clinic, sat down with a nurse, and we figured out the erroneous data entered into the computer during my checkup last summer. Problem solved? Not quite. Another phone call to convince the pharmacist. Still not sure. She consulted with another doctor. He called the pharmacist. He approved enough pills for two weeks. I have an appointment next week to get it all straightened out with my doctor.
Back to the pharmacy for a 35 minute wait while the prescription was filled.
Two interesting events transpired while I was waiting:
A gentleman came to pick up his meds and was told that because he had changed doctors the insurance would not cover the medication he had been taking for fifteen years, without authorization from the new doctor. The gentleman explained in great length that the new doctor could not figure out why he hadn’t been taken off the meds ten years ago and was trying to wean him off, but he still needed a few for the gradual withdrawal process. He promised to speak with his doctor in the morning, but ended up going home without the medication.
A young woman came in and gave the clerk a package of medication, stating, “That’s not my name and those aren’t my pills.” No explanation was given, but a quick check revealed that her meds were ready and an exchange was made.
I share all of this because we have come to rely on computers and data and apps and the internet to the point that we sometimes forget that at the foundation of it all there are people. Data is input by humans. And humans still make mistakes. A number here, a letter there, and everything can change! In the medical field those mistakes can be simply annoying or they can be deadly. Another thing that happened while I was waiting was that a man picked up his medication and was told by the pharmacist that the color had changed because the manufacturer was different. Manufacturer: another step in the process where mistakes can be made. Most pharmacists are dispensing medications, not mixing them up in the back room. Although the recent meningitis contamination in a “compounding pharmacy” gives rise to even more concerns about errors being made.
So be careful out there and learn to advocate for yourself. Mistakes are made….more often than you might think.