Diane Stollenwerk’s Medical Awakening Story

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dianeI knew right away that the skiing accident was bad: I broke my hip at age 35. It took more than 24 hours to get home, with painkillers, a bucket for nausea and x-rays in an envelope. It wasn’t until I talked with my health insurer that I cried. And got angry. The insurer told me to “wait eight to ten days for a referral in the mail.” After pushing, they gave me the name of the doctor, so I immediately called. Turns out he was a shoulder surgeon. I asked his receptionist if she knew of a hip surgeon who sees people under 80. She got me an appointment with the right type of doctor. After the long-delayed surgery, during months of recovery the insurer denied every x-ray as “unnecessary” without explaining how the surgeon should assess internal healing without an ‘inside’ view of my hip.

Confession: at that time, I was a healthcare VP. I knew the questions to ask, hoops to jump through, and acronyms. Even so, decisions made no sense, incomprehensible medical bills piled high, so much time was wasted on correcting errors, and most communication would have been unacceptable in any other service sector. I was embarrassed to be part of the ‘system’ so I channeled Paul Revere and began to proclaim, “The patients are coming!”

Bad service for patients is still everywhere. While helping friends and family with the healthcare maze, most individuals assume they can’t do anything about the mess. And (a dirty secret), too many in healthcare think that patients aren’t savvy enough to do anything about it. That must stop.

Patients are the experts in what patients need. Together we can be a powerful force to expect and receive the service that all patients want, need and deserve from healthcare.

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