Northwell, Check Your Messages

Our financial institutions were supposed to be too big to fail, but many failed anyway. Are New York hospitals now too big to succeed? In my relatively minor experience, yes they are. In the more disastrous cases of several friends, yes as well, but that would have been their story to tell.
Here’s what happened to me: Northwell Health took six days to send a refill prescription for eye drops to my pharmacy. On a Friday afternoon I phoned Northwell, worked my way through the dozen phone commands until I reached its “medication renewal” voice mailbox and left all my information. I knew nothing would be done until Monday. Wrong. Not until the following Thursday, after daily calls from me as well as my pharmacy, plus at least one fax, did I have my refill.
How to make this tedious story, which most New Yorkers have lived through several times, interesting? It is important because we usually let these things go. They happen to everyone and patients are so happy when the experience is over, or we are are still so sick, that we don’t have the energy to demand competent care.
Five days after my first call for a refill, on a Wednesday, I still had no response. I fought my way through Northwell’s phone system and reached a human being in my doctor’s office. She said they would send it to the pharmacy immediately. That afternoon, a woman with a Spanish accent too thick for me to truly understand phoned to say that the prescription was at Walgreens. I repeated everything she told me to verify that I had understood her. Later I phoned Walgreens pharmacy, confirmed that I had indeed reached the pharmacy, and the man I spoke with said my prescription was in. He volunteered that it was eye drops. Three hours later I went to pick them up. The story changed. Three pharmacists told me that the prescription had not been received. The manager said that no man was in the pharmacy at that time I phoned so no one could have said that. However, the man I spoke with offered me the information that it was eye drops. If he was somewhere else he has remarkable powers of ESP. I would like to contact him about the stock market.
The next morning, on day six, I again phoned my doctor’s office at Northwell and said that, despite what their office had told me the day before, no prescription had been phoned in. While I waited on hold I heard a commercial for Lenox Hill Hospital. I thought it was an act of God telling me to get away from Northwell, but no, it turns out that Northwell owns and operates Lenox Hill as well, part of the monopolistic, patient-harming trend of consolidation in our nation’s hospitals. This hurts patients (examples furnished upon request) but enriches hospital administrators, shareholders and maybe, somehow, physicians who keep their mouths shut about how bad care has become.
Anyway, a secretary swore they had already sent in the prescription, would do so again, and hopped off the line. Twenty minutes later, the sixth day after my initial request for a refill prescription from Northwell, someone texted me that the office had sent me a prescription. And reader, it had!!!
Here’s what worked: I do have a smartphone – don’t all patients? I am strong and healthy enough to walk up and down Second Avenue during heat advisories in fruitless visits to my pharmacy when promised prescriptions do not arrive. Also, I knew to refill my prescription well before my medications ran out. Next time I shall give them a month, instead of a week.
A Northwell Health factsheet says it is “more than 69,000 people looking at health care differently.” I did have a different experience than I expected. I lived, but someone else won’t.
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