One of the most important things that patients want to believe is that their healthcare team coordinates their care. Unfortunately, care coordination does not always happen as it should. As a result, patients are frustrated; care is delayed, time is wasted, and the disease progresses.

Case In Point

I was talking to a friend who has metastatic breast cancer. She is going through a variety of treatment options to contain her cancer. Overall, she has done well during her journey. She can work, maintains her projects, and keeps up with family and friends.

She is compliant with taking her meds, getting lab work, and other diagnostic tests that allow her Oncologist to know how she is doing. She is doing all she can to fight the beast, and so far, she is staying one step ahead of the game.

She explained that her Oncologist wanted her to get a port placed as she wants to start her on a new regime that entails IV chemotherapy. Hearing this news told me that the doctor is using all the tools she has to treat my friend. I am grateful.

My friend’s main challenge is poor care coordination by the Oncologist’s office. She has found it hard to get a hold of someone when she has a question. She tries to use the patient portal – but that goes without answers for days.

The latest issue she is facing is getting a date to have a port placed, as the doctor has a new routine she wants to try. She was told when she left the Oncologist’s office, the staff would set the appointment with a surgeon at one of the local hospitals, and someone would call her to schedule the date.

After a week, my friend has not heard from the Surgeon’s office. So she called the office and had to leave a message for the medical assistant to call her back. It took a few days for someone to get back to her. When they did, she was told they could not schedule the port placement as she had not been cleared medically.

My friend was near tears as she felt like she was going in circles. She asked the scheduler who would clear her and what test would she need. The scheduler told her the clearance is usually done by the Oncologist who made the referral as she is following the patient. My friend asked the Surgeon’s office to call the Oncologist’s office and let the staff know what needed to be done to clear the patient so she could have the port placed as soon as possible. The secretary said she would call and get back to her.

My friend was distraught as she had been off chemo for three weeks and knew this was not good as her cancer was probably spreading. When she told me the story, she asked me why the system is so messed up. Why don’t people follow through to make sure my care is coordinated? Why do I have to stay on top of everything”?

I had no reassuring words for her except to say I was sorry. She said this is not your fault…I know it is not my fault, but I am sad to see the system work so poorly as a nurse.

As I thought about the call, I asked myself, how can you have faith in your treatment team when mistakes like this are made? Placing a port is a routine procedure in the oncology world. Why did the staff not know how to do this? Who suffers? The patient. Who looks bad, the Oncologist?

My friend will call tomorrow and talk to the office and find out what her next steps are.

All I can say is that we have to do better…………………………….

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments and thoughts, and recommendations.

Have a good week.


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