David J. Danto


Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion




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Cruisin’ For A Doctor

My wife and I will be taking a brief, four night cruise in a couple of weeks.  However, this blog is one of the few I’ll write that is mostly off the topic of travel.  Instead, as we prepare for the trip, let’s discuss our experience with the state of healthcare in the US.

The opportunity to take the cruise – essentially the first for us – came from a loyalty offer that was too good to refuse.  We were offered a “free” four day cruise anywhere in the Caribbean.  As pure novices (and for the most part, non-drinkers) we figured that even with the expense of all the add-ons (beverages, excursions, taxes, tips, etc.) it was a good chance to have our first cruising experience without too much pain.  We looked for a modern, comfortable ship, and were about to make the reservation, when my wife noticed that they also offered a four day cruise that stopped in Havana, Cuba for a day. 

My wife loves exploring new places.  I, on the other hand, prefer traveling to places that have Hiltons and known brand chain restaurants.  You can guess who wins the argument there.  It wasn’t a long one though, as I figured that spending a day in Cuba would be interesting to say the least, and then eating and sleeping back on a ship as it makes its way home was about as good a compromise as I was ever going to get. 

So naturally, a super organizer and ‘checklister’ like me tries to think of everything that might need to be done in advance.  (I suppose most people don’t think of these things in advance but I guess I’m happy to not be most people.)  Do we have our paperwork in order?  Do we have enough medication with documentation?  Do we need any inoculations?  I realize I’m going to need to reach out to my doctor.

Now – don’t get me wrong – I like my primary care physician.  She spends the time with my family and I as needed, cares about us, and has our best interests in mind.  Regrettably, she works for a super-overgrown conglomerate of health-care professionals here in the New Jersey area.  I won’t name them.  Instead, I’ll call them by the nickname they use for themselves internally – “The Firm” – taken from the Tom Cruise movie of a few years ago.  At their very well financed organization you’re just as likely to find an excellent healthcare professional as you are to find an uncaring specialist that sees you as the next piece of meat, and a bureaucracy that could make a seasoned motor-vehicle-office professional cry.

Reaching my doctor to ask a question is somewhat complicated.  I can’t send her an email, and as I’m also a busy professional, I can’t call her and be at her disposal for when she’s able to return the call.  I have to go to The Firm’s online healthcare portal, log in, and send a message there.  OK – I do just that, asking if my wife and I need any shots before the trip.  She suggests we should contact The Firm’s ‘Travel Clinic’ to ask that question.  OK again. I search their portal for ‘travel clinic’ and nothing comes up.  I then leave their portal and go to The Firm’s website and search for ‘travel clinic’ there too.  Nada.  Being confused, I open the portal again and ask my doctor how to reach this travel clinic.  Her nurse responds with a phone number – of their ‘Infectious Diseases’ department.

The following day (while sitting at a gate at ATL waiting for an as usual, delayed United flight) I figured calling the Infectious Diseases department would be a good use of my time.  I explain our situation and ask for their advice.  The first thing I’m told is I should have contacted them six to eight weeks before travel.  (I didn’t have the trip booked eight weeks ago, so that’s about as unhelpful as The Firm could be – or so I thought.)  I was then told I should make an appointment to come in and discuss what might be needed.  “No” I replied “that’s not how this is going to work.  You’re going to tell me if there is anything that I need traveling to the area for one day, and if the answer is yes I’ll come in and get it – and then you can bill my insurance – but I’m not going to waste my precious time to come in and be told I don’t need anything.”  “Oh, no” the gentleman replied, “none of these travel services are covered by insurance.”  That pretty rapidly ended the inquiry over inoculations.

With all of the tremendous and complex problems with the state of healthcare in the US, what is it with these doctors that compound it by thinking we have the time to just come in and have them tell us nothing useful?  As an example, I’ve been suffering with back issues for years, and have been searching for the right treatment – unhappy with the old-school, traditional choices one of The Firm’s surgeons was giving me.  I was going to see a specialist outside of The Firm until one of their doctors told me they were hiring a “unique, modern” specialist that could help me – in about two months.  I waited the two months, made an appointment, went to see him, and he told me – being new to The Firm – he “wouldn’t contradict the suggestion of the other [Firm] Surgeon.”  That was total fraud – bringing me in for a consult (and billing my insurance company) to provide no additional or useful information.  That could have been told to me over the phone.  Now, over three months later, I’m going to see the specialist outside of The Firm that I was going to do in the first place.

As a result of all this, with no new inoculations (other than our Flu shots), my wife and I will spend four nights on an older, smaller ship so we can spend a day in Havana, protected by nothing other than all the Purell we can legally carry.  I’ll follow-up after our trip with another blog telling everyone how that experience went.  At least – if there’s nothing useful for you in that subsequent blog – you won’t have to go to a portal to make an appointment to come in for an appointment to find that nothingness out.


This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.

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