I recently had a pretty negative experience at a doctor’s office.


My rheumatologist recommended that I see an immunologist because I am having some issues that she felt warranted me seeing a different specialist.

I obtained a referral for the specific doctor at the end of October.

The way my health insurance works, I have to obtain a referral from my school in order to be able to see outside doctors.  What this means for me is that I am able to e-mail the health center director, and she submits the referrals.  This is a convenient, albeit redundant system, in that my rheumatologist’s referral holds no weight with my insurance company; it has to come from my school.

The appointment with the immunologist was at the beginning of December.  I left work several hours early and ended up having to take a cab to get to the appointment.

Usually I like to arrive a half hour before my appointments, but on this particular day, given transportation issues, I arrived just five minutes before.

When I checked in, I was told that the office did not have my referral and the doctor would not see me without it.  I explained that the referral had been submitted in October and had proof of that via e-mail, but that was not enough.

I called the student health center at school and was told that the director was in a meeting, but the person I spoke with assured me they would make every effort to get the message to her.  At 4:30, the health center director called me to find out what the issue was.  About three minutes later, she faxed the referral to the office.  I was then told that it had to be verified, and that the doctor had to leave right at 5:00.  I was then told that the referral had the wrong diagnostic code and was therefore invalid.

Translation: I sat in the waiting room for an hour, only to be told that I wouldn’t be seen and would have to reschedule my appointment.  I was so upset and angry about this.  I have never had this experience before, and it felt wrong on so many levels.

If having the referral was absolutely necessary for the appointment, why wasn’t I notified by the office that they didn’t have it?  Obviously I’ve learned from this experience that I should have all referrals on my person.  It’s also frustrating that a doctor’s office requires at least 24-hours cancellation notice, but they can basically cancel your appointment when it is supposed to be happening.

That night, I e-mailed the health center director to let her know what had transpired, and that despite her faxing the referral to the doctor’s office, I wasn’t seen after all.

Honestly, her response surprised me.  She apologized, told me that she felt “the doctor’s actions unreasonable and inappropriate,” that she, “would have given them an earful,” if they would have called her directly, and that she was frustrated and furious about my experience.

I was impressed with the health center’s quick turnaround in faxing the referral.  I was also impressed by the furor that the health center director expressed about the experience.

Granted, this is an inefficient system of getting referrals from school.

However, I do think that this issue was specific to this doctor’s office, and I am still trying to figure out the motivation behind it.   And I do feel that in this situation, the health center came through, in the clutch.

The health center director updated the referrals for me, and I hope that I am all set for December 17, when my appointment is.

I do plan and contacting the patient representative at the hospital where my doctors are, after my appointments, of course, to share my experience with them.

As much as I am upset at the doctor’s office, I really do feel that the school health center was there for me.  I felt they understood the importance of me being seen in a timely manner, and even complied with getting the referral faxed ASAP.  What they couldn’t help with is whatever kind of power trip this doctor was on.  And I don’t blame the health center for that.  That’s not their job.