A few weeks ago I was asked to “update” my information at a dentist’s office, as commonly happens annually at pretty much all my practitioners. Perhaps you have the same experience: by “update” what they really mean is, “Here, waste your time filling out this entire form so you can give us again all the information we already have in our computer. Plan to have to take out your wallet and phone to look up ID and phone numbers you already gave us before, but, you know, fuck you, do it all over again.” This makes me irrationally angry. This was during a visit on my own to a periodontist. I’ve been alternating between my regular dentist and the periodontist for a bit because some of my gum probe gaps were up to 5mm or 6mm. And no, that’s not dirty.
This would not be so bad, except it was just a few months after the day when I took myself and my two kids to the dentist for back-to-back-to-back appointments. And guess what, yep, all three of us were due for “updates”. I had to sit there and waste my time filling out three forms from scratch so that I could give them, three more times, a bunch of information they already had in their records. All three of us have the same address and so on, but I had to repeat the exercise three times to replace the information that was exactly the fucking same for all three of us as it had been since we started going there. This was just infuriating, especially since the receptionist was just going to sit there going through the forms, noting that yep, same address, same phone number, same birthdays, and so on, only to file these forms I just completed somewhere no one would ever look at them again. (Not to mention that these forms usually are poorly designed, and do not leave enough space for the information they are asking about. How many of us can fit our e-mail address into a space that’s the size of my gum probe gaps?)
Being the mature adult that I am, I immediately proceeded to bitch and moan on social media, much like now. But I also went to Reddit, found a subreddit on dentisry, and asked if there were federal or professional licensure requirements that FORCE medical / dental offices to operate like this with total disregard for modern technology and record keeping, or do individual practices just stick with their procedures because they can’t be bothered to try to use the resources at hand to make the process more efficient? I was given several answers that no, there were no such requirements, and some practitioners told me that in their practice they employ iPads and other things invented after the typewriter to allow patients to interact with and truly update their records as needed. So it seems the sad truth is that medical and dental practices that ask you to update your records by filling out redundant forms on a clipboard are not doing that for any reason other than they can’t be bothered to improve their system. And you know, when I am paying the equivalent of $500 per hour or more for a service, just maybe I can have the expectation that my experience as a patient is being considered.
So to all those practitioners who keep asking me to “update my records” before handing me a clipboard with a stack of blank pages on it, how about: fuck that noise, YOU update! Update your technology. Update your record keeping system. Update the small amount of crap you seem to give for the patient experience at your office.