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You mean I have to do it again?

August 28, 2007


I am in search of an endocrinologist and I made a phone call to a local diabetes center this afternoon to make an appointment.

When the receptionist answered, I explained to her that I had just moved to the area and that I was looking for a new endocrinologist, and I had been referred to the clinic by someone else and was wondering if they were accepting new patients.

The receptionist then asked me, “Are you a diabetic?”

Now, in hindsight I realize the woman was probably wondering if I was calling on behalf of a child or just myself, but it is still a strange question to hear someone ask you after you said you are looking for an endocrinologist. Of course I have diabetes, I thought!

After giving her all my contact information and how long I had had diabetes, she said she would call me back with an appointment time.

Now, this next part I should have realized I couldn’t get away with, but bear with me. You see, I don’t have a primary care physician yet, but I thought perhaps my old endocrinologist would work as a referral. Apparently not.

When the receptionist called me back, she said that I need a primary care physician to make the referral. I asked her if an old doctor could make the referral. She said no. When I asked why, she said, and I quote:

“You have to be diagnosed with diabetes.”

Excuse me?

“I already am a diabetic,” I said.

“I know that,” she replied. She then went on to explain that if I was ever diagnosed with something else they would need to have a local doctor they could speak with to discuss treatments.

That is a logical explanation. I completely understand why I would need a local doctor and assumed that this would be the case. I’m frustrated that I have to do that, only because I rarely get sick and haven’t visited a primary care doctor in years, but I understand why they need to have someone on file.

But the “you need to be diagnosed” response? Oh please. You can do better than that.

Oh the things people think they can get away with saying…

  1. Lili permalink
    August 28, 2007 8:02 PM

    How odd. I know that here in Seattle, I was told that endos wouldn’t accept new patients without a referral from a primary care doctor, even if your insurance didn’t care. I guess it’s probably because endos are in such short supply.

  2. August 28, 2007 8:17 PM

    Sometimes people get referred to endocrinologists for thyroid, adrenal, or whatever endocrine problem. Every time I go to my diabetes center they ask if I’m diabetic cause that determines if I need to give a urine sample or not.

  3. August 28, 2007 8:18 PM

    Oh PS, seriously, that receptionist sounds like a ditz, but don’t like that phase you. I can’t stand the receptionist at my diabetes center but the doctors and nurses are good.

  4. August 28, 2007 8:24 PM

    Probably the ‘diagnosis’ is needed for insurance purposes. And if you previous doctor is out of state it’s too complex to maintain that long distance connection.

    My advice. See whether a local hospital has a doctor referral service where they give you a list of doctors in your area. Then talk with them and ask them if there are doctors they’d recommend. They don’t normally do this, but they may provide you with hints. Then when calling the office of the doctor you’ve chosen as a candidate as the staff whether they like the doctor and whether he or she is punctual. Normally they’ll answer honestly and you can tell a good deal about a doctor from the answer.

    Good luck.

  5. August 28, 2007 8:56 PM

    Yeah I had to get a primary care doc after I moved too. I also had to prove that I had diabetes so that my new insurance had a diagnosis code. I drank a juice, they took some blood and that was it.

    I just picked someone random from my insurance list, turns out that he doesn’t really have a clue about diabetes. He kept on making comments like “but you’re so young to have diabetes” Oh brother…

  6. Allison permalink*
    August 28, 2007 9:09 PM

    I don’t think the “diagnosis” has anything to do with insurance (it might, not sure) only because I was able to get prescriptions for my test strips and insulin from my last endocrinologist in Portland and I was able to get all the supplies just fine. I honestly think it’s for the communication purposes, because the receptionist probably would have included insurance as one of the reasons. Unless she truly is a ditz and has no idea how any of this works.

    A few people at work have recommended doctors, and there are a couple of medical universities near where I live (yay for living near New York City) so I’m not worried about finding the primary care or the endocrinologist.

    Next up: Gynecologist and dentist. G-d I hate being me sometimes…

  7. August 28, 2007 9:25 PM

    Actually, if your insurance carrier is United Healthcare, you no longer need a primary care physician’s referral anymore (at least since January or so with Oxford, which is big in the NYC area), so I wonder why they are making you give them a referral?!

  8. August 28, 2007 9:39 PM

    I needed a referral for the endo practice I would have preferred at time of thyroid/type 2 diagnosis (despite having excellent insurance). I think it’s their way of screening patients that “really” need their care because of the endo shortage.

    Luckily, I found my current practice easy to deal with. As it turns out, it’s a more convenient place to go anyways.

  9. August 28, 2007 10:01 PM

    People are stupid. But whatever.

  10. Sara permalink
    August 28, 2007 10:04 PM

    I typically hate my insurance and how much I have to pay for a PPO – but when I moved I was able to call and make an appointment with the local endo with no referral.
    Also, I have ‘referred’ five co-workers or students to her in the 2 years I have been here. I think she owes me some money or free stuff!

  11. Allison permalink*
    August 28, 2007 10:12 PM

    United Healthcare is excellent. I haven’t spent a dime on my diabetes supplies since I started. I may never change jobs.

    As far as the whole referral thing, I asked if my old endo or an old doctor could refer me, and the receptionist insisted that it be someone local (for the aforementioned reasons). Either that’s true and they really do need a local doctor, or she doesn’t have her facts straight and she’s making stuff up. Either way, the way she said it was very amusing.

  12. August 29, 2007 7:46 AM

    I hear United will pay for CGMS too – at least my endo’s office upstate says they have no problem with people on United getting their CGMS paid for. Alas, not me – I will just hope when our annual we’re-switching-your-benefits memo comes out it will be to United….

  13. August 30, 2007 10:10 AM

    When I was first looking for an endo when I moved to Delaware, my old doctor recommended someone. So I called the office, and they said, “Now, what would you be seeing us for?”

    I answer, “Diabetes. Type 1.”

    The response I got was, “Oh. I’m sorry, but we’re only taking new thyroid patients right now.”

    What? It seemed very odd. Now that we’re moving in October, I’m going to have to go through this whole process AGAIN. Hopefully I won’t need to be “diagnosed”.

  14. Cathy permalink
    September 7, 2007 2:13 PM

    I am asked the same question all the time, who is your primary care doc. (I have cystic fibrosis and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, so I see a lot of docs.) I used to list my CF doc as primary, because I want him to have a record of everything. He still gets a copy, but the reason for a primary care doc, I was told, is because the specialists don’t admit patients, as a rule. A primary care physician has to be the one that admits and ultimately okays the patients discharge from the hospital. At least with the hospital system my insurance company uses. All I can say is, I hope my primary care doc will admit me if I need it. I have only seen her once and that was about 2 years ago.

    As for a diabetes center wanting to know if you are diabetic, well, duh, if you were’t diabetic and were just looking for an endocrinologist, you wouldn’t be calling a diabetes center. She could have given the explanation she finally gave as to needing a primary care doc to speak with if other issues arise. That would make more sense. I think some places don’t train their staff very well.

    As far as hating to be you because of having to find a dentist and gynecologist, I know what you mean. I hate going to new docs and only do so under extreme duress. I switched gyn’s recently only to be referred to another gyn for surgery. That’s adding insult to injury in my book! Good luck to you.

  15. bayi permalink
    September 22, 2007 10:38 PM

    Doesn’t feel right in my bones. You are made to conform to a set system instead of having the system care for you. I thought health systems are set up to care for patients, not the other way round.

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