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AARP Expert

Don't expect a call back from the doctor: how to get a response from your loved one's medical team

I'm a medical social worker, and I have to say that one of the things I hear over and over again from caregivers and patients is: "I never got a call back." From their doctors, or their care-recipient's doctor or other provider. (A lot of primary care providers are physicians assistants or family nurse practitioners, especially in rural areas.) I've worked in hospital settings, as a home hospice social worker, in outpatient clinics for cancer and neurology, and after 6 years as a mental health provider in a rural outpatient primary care clinic, I'm an oncology social worker once again in a medium sized city. Let me tell you how to get the response you need.


If you have a question about the medication that was newly prescribed, do exactly what the prescriber told you to do. If s/he said call, then call, and call twice a day until you get a human who can respond.


If you need a hospital bed or a wheelchair, make an appointment to see the provider in person, or by telehealth (phone, video). Because the provider needs to assess what makes those things a necessity, and then has to fill out a form to justify having insurance pay for it. If you need a bedside commode or a shower chair or walker, consider calling the area thrift stores, or a local hospice and see if you can get one for free or for $25, because every thrift store seems to have these in piles, and when a patient dies at home in hospice, they get donated to the hospice.


If you are waiting on a confirmation that a prior authorization has been given for a visit to a specialist or for a test like an MRI, find out who does that job and keep in touch with them. Don't harass them with daily calls: be super nice. Just find out when they'll know and then call. Don't wait passively to be called by the specialist's office or the radiology department (for CTs and MRIs). Apparently, the VA was taking weeks to get back to prior auth workers, and that's not their fault. But you have a right to know. Just know that the 'system', such as it is, barely works, and being angry does not help: it's no one person's fault. Everyone is doing the best they can, truly. 


For anything the remotest bit complicated, make an appointment. Doctors are some of the busiest working humans in our world, and they can't focus on more than a couple things at a time. If you call with a new symptom, someone has to look up your chart, review your meds, maybe look up something.... when they barely have time to eat and go to the bathroom. Go in to see them. Be organized. and help them to focus on just you.


Good luck.

Regular Contributor

I remember medical care in the 60s and the certainly wasn't like this.

Greedy businessmen are running medical care in this country, not the folks who are supposed to --- doctors.

They are causing endless harm to endless people.

It is an offense to basic morality.

Honored Social Butterfly

@JaneCares gave some really good info to people who are helping others with all kinds of medical needs and care.


Your post seems to just want to complain - who can respond on things that aren't specific in nature at least to a specific complaint.


It does take lots of money nowadays to provide medical care - from hospitals to independent docs unless they go only the basic, rudimentary route and you might not like that either.


It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
0 Kudos

I agree, we do not have public health system that can respond to the needs of the public. What we have is for profit medicine, a basic need that is treated as a commodity accessible for those that can pay the high price for care, but even that has limits if that person's care threatens profits.

0 Kudos
Honored Social Butterfly

Who can respond to such a generalized complaint?  I thought @JaneCares gave some very practical advice.  In this day and age with 330 MILLION people and with almost 70 MILLION of them being seniors and getting older and older and with the number of personal care physicians very low - yea, it is tight.  


Only so many docs will accept Medicaid (the low income, elderly, disabled program) and that's because the government does not pay enough for them to make ends meet - Medicaid reimbursement rates are the lowest of the low - and that's the government, not some greed.  


What needs of the public are you talking about?  It has to be a medically necessary need.  FOR-PROFIT gives us a lot of medical discovers - treatments and medicine.  

Health care is a commodity because one has to rely on the talents, skills, education  and infrastructure of another to get it.  

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Recognized Social Butterfly

i find that if you ask for the correct person who deals with a certain issue then go to that person for the needed information. I wish they would color code smocks/name tags to help identify the correct  person such as physical therapy /occupational therapy etc. So you would be familiar with the correct person. Instead of asking and being told they are not the one to be talking to..Or if they had a directory handy with the appropriate persons name on it to help you...Also a plan of action of  what is being done for the patient...It's frustrating not to know what is going to happen next regarding patient care and discharge ..

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