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Physician visits and resident privacy

June 27, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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Though I have lived in nursing homes for many years, I have struggled to get used to how certain doctors conduct themselves during their monthly visits. One doctor in particular would sit on my bed directly behind where I was seated at the computer. I wanted to say, “Doctor, would you please face me?” But, of course, I never did. Most of the time his visits caught me by surprise and I forgot to ask important questions.

Doctors would occasionally enter the dining room to see residents during breakfast. I disliked that residents had to see their doctor in a common area without any privacy. I realize that doctors are busy but I do not think they should have to see residents during their meal times.

When I moved to this facility, I was told I would see the medical director and, because it is a “behavior facility,” a psychiatrist each month as well. The first time the psychiatrist came, we were told to line up outside the staff break room. The line was long and I was tired. I asked if I could lie down and have the psychiatrist come to my room. He did, and it is where he usually sees me now. His visits are short and he always seems to be in a hurry.

A couple of months ago residents were eating lunch in the dining room when we heard the psychiatrist approaching. I could not believe that he would see us while we were eating. In a few minutes he walked into the dining room and began talking to each resident. Since there was no privacy, I did not want to talk to him. But I also did not know how to avoid it.

Eventually, the psychiatrist came up and asked, “How are you doing?” I said, “Status quo, until I have some privacy.” He gave me a funny look but walked on by saying nothing more.

I was surprised that resident family members were chatting out in the open with the psychiatrist like they were having a visit. It was unsettling because I could not understand why they would talk to him in the dining room with no privacy. I also assumed that he would bill each resident as if he had seen them individually.

Last week I spoke with one of the family members who talked with the psychiatrist that day. She told me she was shocked to receive a Medicare co-pay bill for her husband's visit with the psychiatrist. She did not think she should have been billed and she wrote letters to the psychiatrist, Medicare and the facility's owner to protest.

After I talked to her I realized I should have been more conscientious and not forgotten to contact Medicare about the situation. I know that I would have remembered if I had been billed for co-pay. I hope doctors realize that residents and their family members want to see them privately, especially if they are going to be billed.

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Comments

Hi Kathleen

This is so important - and I think people forget that privacy is precious - I think people see people as like patients in a shared ward in a hospital. But this is not the case, privacy is a right not an option.

Keep up your great work, putting the voice of consumer out there.

Warmest wishes
Ralph

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...