Stories from an Academic Medical Center, January 2015: Part One

Three surgeons in operating room, mid sectionThese events occurred at a prominent tertiary care, university teaching hospital (AMC). For the purpose of this story, it will be identified only as “AMC.”

It’s an inevitable part of life that sometimes the doctor becomes a patient. This is where I found myself in January 2015.

During a four-day inpatient stay at AMC, the sentinel events were:

  • Neither the anesthesiologist nor the anesthetist talked to me (despite 14 prior surgeries)
  • Drugs administered made me “goat sick” (a first)
  • Their fee was $6,000

I decided to get to the bottom of this. I have, in spite of multiple obstacles and delays.

It took a month to get the anesthesia record. Medical record department did not send it, but my surgeon’s call center did. Upon opening the envelope my eyes first landed on the anesthesiologist’s words: “I personally, 7:17 AM, risks of death, MI, CVA, etc.”

My reaction was, “This is fake; these two are not entitled to even one cent.” I had signed no consent for anesthesia nor acknowledged its risks in writing.

Then I looked at the vital sign and medication part of this anesthesia record, where I saw “phenylephrine, phenylephrine, ephedrine” over and over. Those were not medications I had ever heard about in my multiple prior surgeries.

I set out to get my record amended. The process involves the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, part of the “privacy policies” every patient acknowledges during registration at each healthcare site.

The upshot is that my husband and I were flown to AMC in July 2015 to meet with these providers. Their response to my repeated requests for a copy of the “consent” was to FedEx me a copy of the “legal chart” as defined by “HIPAA rules” in August 2015.