Wanda Allen

Wanda Allen: A Patient’s Perspective on Healthcare

We hear a patient’s perspective on healthcare from Wanda Allen in this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare podcast with Rob Oliver. Wanda is from Mississippi. Although she has limited experience in the healthcare system, she has seen the ugly side in billing and the good side in patient centered care. This is interview 39 in the patient’s perspective interview marathon.

Here are 3 things that stood out as Wanda Allen gave us a patient’s perspective on healthcare:

  • Bedside manner is extremely important. Someone that is skilled as a clinician still needs to be able to make a personal connection on a human level.
  • Billing is one of the most frustrating parts of the healthcare system. Nobody wants to get a surprise bill!
  • It’s not just one doctor’s office here or there that is creating the problem. It is the healthcare system in the United States that causes the frustration.

Here is the transcript of Rob Oliver’s interview with Wanda Allen from the patient’s perspective interview Marathon:

Introduction to Wanda Allen

Wanda Allen: Hi.

Rob Oliver: Hi. Welcome to the podcast. Let’s start off with what is your name, please?

Wanda Allen: Wanda Allen.

Rob Oliver: And Wanda, where are you joining me from?

Wanda Allen: Today? I’m in Oxford, Mississippi.

Rob Oliver: Oxford, Mississippi. Fantastic. So one of my goals with the podcast, as I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous episodes, is to have somebody from every single state representative. And Mississippi is not on the list yet. But thankfully, we are now able to check that one off. So, Wanda, thanks for being here. And let’s start right here.

Describe your patient experience in the healthcare system

Rob Oliver: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experiences in healthcare, please?

Wanda Allen: Well, fortunately, I don’t have a lot of experience other than the annual appointments. And I mean, I’ve had two surgeries in my life and they were quite a while ago. They went well. So overall, I’ve had good experiences. Overal.

Rob Oliver: Good. The implication there is that there were some experiences that were lacking, but in general, it’s been at least good. Am I reading between the lines too much?

Wanda Allen: Yeah. No, it’s good. There’s just a couple of things like why does it take three months to get an appointment for your annual physical? They’re so backlogged. It’s crazy. So there’s a level of frustration. I don’t know what the answer to that is, but I just know, like, I’m in a place now. I need to schedule my annual federal physical. Dentist. I have a reminder literally for three months before because I have a chance at getting in when it’s due.

Rob Oliver: That is. It’s so difficult. What you’re saying is you have to schedule yourself that far in advance. I’ll admit this. I mentioned it in an earlier interview that I see a spinal cord doctor because of my disability. And when I see them, I’m getting an appointment that is six plus months out. That’s because she is a specialist and she’s extremely good at what she does. And there’s a lot of us that rely on her. But thankfully, she is willing that if I really need to get in to see her, she can squeeze me in. But she says to me, listen, you need to have a primary care doctor because I can’t be that for you. I can only be your specialist. But again, it’s that idea that you’re looking at having to schedule that far out. It’s crazy. It is crazy. Have you met I’ve been doing this now for 10 hours, and if I repeat a question, I will apologize for that.

Recognizing Healthcare Heroes

Rob Oliver: Have you met any healthcare heroes along your journey, or did I just ask you that?

Wanda Allen: No, you haven’t asked me that. You mean in terms of doctors or…

Rob Oliver: Anybody who is going above and beyond or anybody who you would say this is a great example of somebody who is doing it right in the healthcare world?

Wanda Allen: No, I don’t.

Rob Oliver: Okay, that is a valid answer to the question. It’s interesting to me because what you’re saying is that for the most part, it’s been a good experience, but there isn’t anyone throughout that experience that stands out to you and says, this is somebody for whom it wasn’t just a good experience, but it was a great experience. Am I properly understanding what you’re saying?

Wanda Allen: Yeah, but I just had someone come to mind. But it wasn’t for me. My husband had back surgery. I’ve gone to, obviously, the surgery and then the after appointments. And his back surgeon is the best doctor I have ever seen. He is direct to the point, but so kind and has the best bedside manners. I mean, it’s such a beautiful mix because people tend to be one or the other. He’s so knowledgeable. He’s so confident in what he does. I mean, I am just so impressed by him.

Rob Oliver: Wonderful. And the thing that makes him a healthcare hero, I heard you say, like, it’s his knowledge. Is that what it is that makes him.

Wanda Allen: Yes, his knowledge and his confidence in what he does. He’s no nonsense, but yet he’s so kind and caring. Caring is probably the better word. He’s no nonsense and caring. And that is such a beautiful mix.

Rob Oliver: Right. Okay. So again, just to reiterate what I’m hearing you say, there’s knowledge, there’s confidence, and then at the end of it, you’re saying he’s caring, and that’s what makes it a huge difference. Very interesting.

What is your definition of quality healthcare?

Rob Oliver: So what does quality health care mean to you?

Wanda Allen: Well, being able to get in when you have insurance and not having these enormous bills coming at you, it’s like, wait a minute, I have insurance? Why am I that’s such a frustration. I just never know what I’m going through some issues right now with billing, and it’s so frustrating. But yeah, it’s just nice. We’ll get in when you want to get in, not have to wait forever in a day and not have surprise bills show up in your mailbox where you’re going, what? And then you’ve got a call and you talk to two different people from the same company, and they give you two different answers. And it’s like, oh, my gosh, it’s crazy. It’s such a circus. It’s just run around. And that’s a real irritation for me.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. So two things that I’m hearing you say. One is access, being able to get in when you want to get in or when you need to get in. And the other is to have some form of organization when it comes to billing so that you don’t end up with surprise billing, that you don’t end up. And maybe you can comment if you’ve had this experience or not. Have you ever had the thing where it seems like a routine appointment and it gets denied by your insurance company? Has that ever happened to you?

Wanda Allen: No.

Rob Oliver: Well, lucky you is what I’ll say on that. But, yeah, that’s sometimes something that happens, that we’re headed in the right direction, doing good things, and then all of a sudden there are circumstances outside of our control that we end up with extra bills, extra things that we weren’t counting on.

Wanda Allen: Well, I did have a situation. It’s very recently. I’m still dealing with it. I had my mammogram, and that’s a wellness check. And I’ve never, ever had to pay because it’s an annual wellness check. And I get a bill for $90. Not a lot of money, but why am I getting a bill? Well, one lady tells me, because the person that I went for the X ray wasn’t approved by the insurance company. And I said, well, the doctor sent me and I went down the hallway. It’s not like I went to another city. That’s crazy. Then nothing ever happened. So I called back and another woman says, oh, no, that’s not the reason you’re being billed. You’re being billed because that’s the charge to have your X ray reviewed. I said, what? That’s crazy. You see what I mean?

Rob Oliver: Yeah.

Wanda Allen: It’s crazy.

Rob Oliver: And that’s where you end up with the difference between the specialists, where, I don’t know, it almost feels like somebody is double dipping. Right? Because you get charged for somebody taking the X ray, and you get charged for somebody reading the X ray. Xray. It doesn’t make any sense to have an X ray taken if nobody reads it. So how come it’s a double charge there? And you’re so correct. I think that one of the difficult things that I see is that doctors aren’t necessarily up to date on which insurance covers which things or works with which organizations. And so for your doctor, he says, just go down the hallway, get this taken, and we’re good to go. And yet he’s not seeing the fact that it’s your insurance and your insurance says you can’t go down the hallway. You have to go across town to get there. We want our doctors to have all of the medical knowledge. But the crazy thing is that now they need to have insurance knowledge as well. Does that resonate with you?

Wanda Allen: Oh, yeah. In fact, you just reminded me of another situation. So osteoporosis runs in my family for the beginning of time in my mom’s side. So I have it and I had to get an infusion. This just happened probably about six months ago. And so I get there and she said, well, did you bring the medicine? And I said, what? And she said, yeah, you need to pick it up. We called it in. This is an injection. This isn’t like going to pick up some antibiotics. I said, no one ever told me that. I said, that. That’s like telling a cancer patient, yes, you’re going to get your chemo next week. Oh, and by the way, go pick it up at Walgreens. At your Walgreens pharmacy. I said, that’s what? That’s like number one. And number two, why didn’t anybody tell me? So we had to cancel. I had to reschedule. I had to go pick it up it was like $120. That was a surprise. It’s like who’s on first here? And then I felt bad because I know with Corona, with the Covet and the healthcare workers, they’re in such overload and they’re understaffed. So I didn’t want to go too hard on them. And it’s just like it was crazy. But I drove what, 35 minutes from where I live and I had to drive all the way back and yeah, it’s like the communication or who knows what about the situation and why aren’t they guiding me?

Rob Oliver: Yeah. And I think that’s the crazy part. You’re talking about communication and the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and the patient doesn’t know what the provider is doing and the provider is not telling the patient what they’re doing. And you end up with this kind of disconcerting. Disconnect. Where is that too many disses or anything right in a row. But you end up with a disconnect where you’re feeling left out and it’s a waste of your time making you travel across town to get to the thing and to find out that you didn’t have what you needed because did anybody apologize to you for that or was it just kind of a statement of fact?

Wanda Allen: No. They said, I don’t know why you weren’t informed. And the thing is, this wasn’t my first time of ever getting this injection. This was like my third time. So I said, actually, it’s my fourth time. And I’ve never ever had to do that. I don’t know why. I’m sorry. I don’t know why. No, you weren’t told that. That was it, which really makes me feel a whole lot better. But I was so frustrated. To me, it was just a crazy way to do business, to have your patient go get that, get that medicine. That made no sense to me.

Rob Oliver: Right.

Wanda Allen: But whatever, I had to do it.

Rob Oliver: Yeah. And that’s just it. Sometimes you have no choice and your time doesn’t matter and your time has no cost. It’s just a matter of it is what it is. And of course, you’re going to reschedule and you’re going to go and you’re going to pick it up and you’re going to come back in. The whole thing so difficult and so unfortunate. And I’m sorry for your frustration.

Wanda Allen: Yeah. And I don’t know if it’s just the whole COVID thing and they’re just strapped so thin because I just had another situation where I got a $325 bill. I said, what is this for? And, oh, it’s your mammogram. Well, yet again, I’ve never had to pay. Well, you know what it was? The doctor didn’t authorize it. And so the insurance gets it and says, well, this wasn’t authorized. And I said, well, of course she authorized it. I would have never gone this has all happened within the last twelve months. Is it because of COVID? And they’re just strapped so thin they don’t know which side is up? I don’t know, but it’s really been an unusual experience. And I told the lady, I said, I’m 58 years old. This is not my first mammogram. There is no way I’m going to go get one on my own without doctor approval. I’ve been around the block a few times. I don’t know.

Rob Oliver: You’re not old enough to have been around the block that many times, but it’s not your first rodeo. It’s not the first time, but so sad, so difficult. And I appreciate your willingness to share those experiences.

How can we improve healthcare quality?

Rob Oliver: What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare?

Wanda Allen: I think if they can figure out how to not have such a backed up schedule, how can you serve really well if you’re patient? I go to urgent care because I know it’s going to be two months before I can see my GP. So that’s it? I don’t know who can fix that problem. I don’t know, even though why it is a problem, but to me, that’s what that would be huge.

Rob Oliver: Okay, so what I’m hearing you talk about is that it’s a systemic issue. It’s not necessarily the people. Sometimes the people are not the most polite, and they seem kind of maybe cold isn’t the word, but they’re matter of fact. Right. So the person that was talking to you about not picking up the infusion, okay, you didn’t get it. Don’t know why. Oops, sorry. Now go do it. Most of the time, though, the problem is the system. It’s not the people. What’s your reaction to that idea?

Wanda Allen: Yeah, I do believe it’s more system issues, because to me, it’s a universal problem. It’s not just one doctor’s office. It seems like if I’m in California and it’s the same issue, I’m in Mississippi, it’s the same issue. So it’s a universal systems problem as I see it.

Rob Oliver: Sure. It makes perfect sense, and, well, it makes perfect sense to me, and I’m just sad that we can’t make the system make perfect sense for everyone else and move forward from there. Listen, Wanda, I appreciate you being here. My next guest is not here, but my guest after that is already here. So I’m going to let her jump the line and join me immediately. So, Wanda, let me just say I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you sharing your stories, your thoughts, and I respect your perspective on healthcare.

Wanda Allen: Well, thank you so much. Best of luck to you in this. Take care. Take care.

Rob oliver: You, too. Bye.

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