We need patient navigators, people.
I made a trip to Denver last week to spend the day with a cancer patient at the infusion center and try to help him get his medication. On a Tuesday, my friend’s doctor prescribed a new medication when the chemo infusions quit working. He took the prescription to the pharmacy in the hospital, where he was told the pharmacy didn’t have the medication and to go to a retail pharmacy. He went to one and was told the pharmacy didn’t have enough medication to fill the prescription, and to go to another outlet. He went to the other outlet and was told they had the medication, but couldn’t fill the prescription. He didn’t understand why the prescription couldn’t be filled, so on Friday I went to Denver to help find out.
We were in the infusion center from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. As soon as we arrived, we told an infusion nurse that the prescription hadn’t been filled, and she said she would make calls. At 2:00 p.m. when the nurse still hadn’t told us anything, I began making calls to the patient advocate’s office (who said it wasn’t her job to look into this, but she would, anyway), and I found the social worker’s office and talked to her.
When I returned to the infusion center, the nurse was abrupt with me, and said, “I don’t know why you’re making these calls. You call people, and then they call me, and I’m already on it.” I explained that I had made what would be a 5-hour round trip to Denver to help my friend get his medication, and I wanted to do what I could to make sure we could get it before the weekend.
The nurse didn’t seem to like the idea of someone doing any advocacy for one of the patients, and said, “I didn’t know anything about this — he wasn’t complaining!”
And I said, “That’s why I’m here.”
To make a long story short (“too late,” as they say in Clue), we didn’t get the medicine that day. I called the pharmacy and found out that they needed prior authorization to fill the prescription. The infusion center nurse said the woman from the hospital pharmacy would call the retail pharmacy to give the authorization. Then she explained to us that it usually took 72 hours for the authorization to go through.
If the person at the hospital’s pharmacy had made that call when she sent the patient on that wild goose chase, the prescription would have been ready to pick up the day I was in Denver. Instead, the medication was not ready for the patient to pick it up until 9 days after the doctor wrote the prescription for a patient whose other medication had been stopped because it was no longer working.
This happened at Denver Health, formerly known as Denver General Hospital.
When a person is dealing with cancer, they do not have enough energy or focus to unravel this much red tape by themselves. This is just completely unacceptable. Actually, it is just a complete load of crap.
Another thing that is ridiculous – my friend was not able to walk from the parking lot to the door of the infusion center, so I let him out in front and went to park the car. When I got a social worker involved, she said she would fill out the forms for a handicap placard for his car, and he could park outside the door. He could pick the form up on the following Monday and take it to the department of motor vehicles (where he would have to stand in line for how long?) and they would give him the placard. That makes no sense to me. But. The worst part was when he went back on Monday, she didn’t have the form ready for him, and he still doesn’t have it.
We need patient navigators, we need patient advocates, we need doctors who realize that a patient isn’t navigating the system well alone and who makes referrals to supportive people and organizations. WTF?!