Thanks to Twitter, I Fixed Allegheny Health Network. Twice.

It is not a good week when you are comparing the poor customer service of both local grocery chain Giant Eagle and local healthcare giant, Allegheny Health Network.

Note – if anyone chimes in with the word “Aldi’s” – you will be on my list.

On Tuesday, I went to my PCP on Federal Street near AGH. They do regular PCP stuff and have perinatal services. Same building that houses my gynecologists who is part of a big network with all sorts of neonatal care and technical surgeries unrelated to pregnancy.

My PCP tested me for hormone levels and suggested I see my gynecologist against soon and get another set of pelvic ultrasounds, including the transvaginal version, to address some of my symptoms. Ok, not the best test, but I’ve had several over the years.

I called 412-Doctors to schedule and the nice, but somewhat awkward man who helped me told me that pelvic ultrasounds “for women” are not available on the Northside. I pointed out that he could see I had one in November 2017 on Federal Street, in the same office as my gynecologist. He said “no.” I asked about AGH proper, he put me on hold and then said no. Not on the Northside. I would have to go to Robinson.

So that’s workaboue if not desirable for me as a location – we have a car, Laura can take PTO to drive me, etc. Still, I was perplexed – how does AHN have two pretty large practices working with gynecological care and yet no longer offer a pretty routine diagnostic tool?

So I called 412-Doctors back and was told the same thing. Moreover, neither person offered to get me more information or connect me with someone who could answer my concerns.

I called my gynecologist’s office directly and the woman at the front desk said she could “not answer these questions” which seemed like a very odd response. She transferred me to 412-Doctors even though I asked her not to do so, but instead to get someone in her office – like the office manager – who could SEE the ultrasound room and find out if it had been caught up in a temporal vortex.

Then I called AHN’s imaging department directly and received the exact same answer – not available on Northside, not able to explain why. They didn’t even say no LONGER available.

So I emailed the gynecologist and told him about this, asking him to have someone on his team please call me with the explanation. His nurse called me, but I was driving and could not write down the number she had. She refused to discuss it with me, too, but she said the information was wrong and I could get the test done on the Northside. I’m still waiting for her to email me the phone number that allegedly is a direct dial into the ultrasound clinic on the Northside.

Meanwhile, I tweeted about it on Tuesday because AHN is much more responsive to Twitter than anything else. They told me they were looking into it and promised a response. It is Friday and they say they have no update.

So this is now almost farcical – AGH and the disappearing ultrasound office. Except – it isn’t funny. Folks with vaginas being referred for transvaginal ultrasounds are not there for shits and giggles. We are there because something might be wrong. It isn’t a routine diagnostic tool for gynecological health. It is very invasive, uncomfortable at best and painful otherwise, and it is deeply tied to the stigma we associate with women’s reproductive health.

Removing this service from the entire Northside would be terrible. Granted most of the gynecological surgeries are performed at West Penn, but that’s not the same thing as before and aftercare. And it just makes me financial or logistical sense.

But … I fixed it. I received a call from someone in the scheduling department who acknowledged that I was RIGHT – there has been a breakdown. It seems 412-Doctors doesn’t actually schedule everything, including maternal and fetal health. The problem was that the schedulers don’t know about things they don’t schedule. So they didn’t know to refer me directly to my doctor’s office to schedule the maternal type procedure on the Northside, where yes it remains available in the basement of the Federal Street office. Like I thought. Moving forward, the 412-Doctors team will offer people options if they call about these services. And they will be clear that there are some things they don’t schedule and HELP people figure it out.

Now I have a problem with the limited view that only women seeking maternal care might need a pelvic ultrasound. BUT I’m going to take a win where I can.

If you call 412-Doctors and can’t get a proper answer, don’t give up. Call your own doctor and the office manager should have the details on scheduling. And if that doesn’t work, tweet at them @AHNToday – that’s what seems to get their attention. That’s sad, but true.

I’d like to think that since this is the second systemic problem that *I* have noted, reported, and insisted they address, the doctors will stop pigeonholing me as a mentally ill whiner and recogize that I am actually paying attention to how the systems work.

Meanwhile, after all of this, it seems my problem is probably not gynecological after all. Are you kidding me?

I’m really looking forward to AHN investing in my mad systemic skills sometime soon.


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