I occasionally get asked to review charts from other emergency departments in order to determine whether the care provided was appropriate. One of the cases from a visit to a competitor emergency department is below.
A patient with a longstanding history of migraine headaches comes to the hospital for another one of her typical migraine headaches. Light aversion, noise aversion, nausea – all her usual symptoms. She ran out of her Imitrex and when she called her doctor for a refill, she was told to go to the emergency department instead. Her exam showed no physical abnormalities. She got a shot of Imitrex and a shot of morphine. Her headache improved and she was discharged home with her usual headache medications.
Two days later, her headache returned. She happened to be visiting family in a large city and went to the emergency department in a hospital where we often refer patients. This time she was having visual changes. The emergency department physician there gave her more Imitrex and morphine and called neurology to come see the patient. The neurologist evaluated the patient and discovered papilledema on her funduscopic exam. A lumbar puncture confirmed the diagnosis of pseudotumor cerebri.
Fine. The diagnosis may or not have been missed on the first visit. Assume it was.
I got asked to review the chart because the patient complained to the hospital administration. The patient was upset because two of the doctors at the tertiary care hospital told the patient words to the effect of “You’re lucky. If we hadn’t have caught this, you’d be blind in a couple of days.”
Are their self worth that low that they have to make inflammatory statements like this in an effort to aggrandize themselves? You didn’t call the docs involved. I checked. You didn’t request a copy of the chart from her emergency department visit. I checked that, too.
Statements like this, even if they are true, serve little purpose. The patient didn’t lose her vision. Her vision was normal. Woo hoo. You saved her. Don’t dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back.
Actually, statements like that do serve one purpose. They make it a pretty good bet that none of the doctors in our department will ever refer another patient to you or your your hospital.
And if a patient tells any of our docs about any of your screw ups, chances are pretty good that the rest of us will hear about it. Chances are also pretty good that our docs will let any other patients who might need your services in the future know about your mistakes and how you aren’t perfect, either.