Patient-napping: Yet another reason to stay clear of hospitals!

When I started practicing medicine around 20 years ago, it was common practice to alert a physician when their patient was seen in an emergency room.

If John Smith, for example, went to the emergency room with chest pain, the physician who had an established relationship with the patient--knew their history, had managed their health and illnesses, etc.--was notified, even if the hospital ER had no relationship with the physician. It was not uncommon for the patient to then be transferred to the hospital where their own doctor practiced.

Though cumbersome at times, it preserved the relationship of the patient with their doctor.

Over the past few years, this practice has crumbled. Nowadays, hospitals and their employed physicians (and other unscrupulous physicians acting in the name of profit) "fail" to notify the physician with an established relationship.

Guess what happens? The patient all too often ends up being put through the gamut of testing and procedures.

Why? For hospital profit, of course. If failure to notify a doctor who's had a 10-year long relationship with the patient is "overlooked" or, even more commonly, it's "unsafe" to transfer the patient because the patient is too "unstable" to be transferred, then this patient becomes ripe for picking--heart catheterization, stents, bypass surgery, etc. Ten's, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars can be reaped by this deception. I call it "patient-napping".

I see this at least several times every month. As hospitals are becoming increasingly competitive, and as they put pressure on their physicians to churn patients for revenues, you're going to see more and more of this.

As always, what is your protection from this expanding influence of hospitals and the doctors too meek to stand up to them? Education and information. Arm yourself with an understanding of what is accomplished in hospitals, when you truly need them, and when you don't.

Take it one step further. At least from a heart disease standpoint--the #1 profit-maker for hospitals--aim to 1)identify your coronary plaque, then 2) seize control over your coronary plaque and reduce your risk for heart attack and heart procedures as much as humanly possible. That's the goal of the Track Your Plaque program.

Comments (1) -

  • Anonymous

    8/22/2009 3:56:47 PM |

    I believe this happened to me when my PCP was out of town in mid-July.  His "sub" directed me to a local hospital and chose a cardiologist for me.  I had gone for upper left dull chest pain, ended up being admitted to the hospital, and underwent the gamut of heart tests - nuclear stress testing, echocardiograms, even a heart catheterization, all by doctors who did NOT know my history and had no way of finding it out.  Admission through the ER, tests for two days, while my PCP was out of the picture.  And now the cardio, who told me she would notify the PCP and endocrinologist whom I have been seeing for 5 years, has not done that.  I don't even know whether I want to see her or have my PCP recommend another cardiologist.