Monday, April 26, 2010

Socialize It

The fix for this is obvious;

Somewhere in Westminster, Calif., there’s a 38-year-old Vietnamese man who doesn’t know he has a blood infection — and doctors have no way to tell him.

The phone numbers and address the man gave two weeks ago to the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center emergency department turned out to be wrong, so when results of a blood culture came through the day after he was discharged, several phone calls and an urgent visit by city police weren’t enough to track him down.

“There is no way to find the patient,” fretted Dr. Michael J. Burns, a UCI emergency room doctor who fears the infection could spread to the man’s heart or joints. “If he came back, we’d admit him.”

It’s a scenario becoming more common in emergency departments across the country, where doctors from Connecticut to Colorado say they find themselves desperately seeking patients with potentially serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

A combination of delayed test results and bad contact information — sometimes from fearful patients who deliberately give fake names and numbers — is forcing some emergency room officials to resort to people-finders, registered letters and law enforcement visits to deliver their diagnoses.

“This is an extremely common problem for patients of all ranges of ages,” said Dr. Michael Carius, chairman of the emergency department at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. “I think it is getting worse.”

If people simply were treated and not billed, they'd have no reason to hide who they are out of fear of going broke.

The costs for those that do the medical equivalent of "dine and dash" would not be passed on to those of us with health insurance.

It's all pretty obvious.

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