I am not sure when the change occurred, but it seems to be global. When I call a physician's office, I no longer speak with a live person. The phone is immediately answered by voice mail. The calls usually progress something like this:
"No, I don't know my party's extension." Okay, press 0 for the operator. Holding... holding... boring music.. holding. Shoot. I've been disconnected. Try to redial, only to find out that the 0 I pressed messed up the redial option on my phone, so I have to look up the number, again, and start over.
I attempted to get in touch with my son's pediatrician the other morning. I waited until 9:30 to call, trying to avoid contributing to the onslaught of calls received by the office in the morning. I was shocked when I heard a recording that actually said, "You have reached our office during business hours. Unfortunately, we are running late and the office is not yet open. If this is an emergency, please dial 911. Please try again in a few minutes. Thank you."
Doctor's don't even bother to call with lab results anymore. I find myself spending my days navigating through voice mail and eventually talking with nurses or receptionists to try to discover my results. Apparently the results are mailed to my home or sometimes the doctor adopts the "if you don't hear from me, assume all is fine" attitude.
I have a strict policy. If someone takes any fluid or tissue from my body, I deserve the courtesy of a phone call to tell me the results. I understand that the doctor is busy, but certainly one of the nurses I frequently see huddled around the counter in the office could manage a phone call. After all, they are my results and these nurses are not answering the phone!
Yet another medical test is scheduled for tomorrow. I am not dreading the test as much as I am dreading the chore of getting the results read by my doctor and forwarded to me. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be an active participant in my own care, but I refuse to accept a passive role. After all, I am the person who will have to live with any and all treatment decisions.
My Mom recently went for her annual pap smear and was given a phone number and special "code" to retrieve her results. We laughed when we thought about the possibilities. Soon, doctors will no longer reveal diseases in person. Imagine, pressing a code and hearing the voice mail recording say, "We're sorry. You have cancer. Please get your affairs in order. To repeat this information, press one; to leave a message, press two; press star to disconnect or hang up now. Thank you."