Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do you want a souvenir DVD of your colonoscopy? So did I.

See all posts re UCSD.

I was scheduled for a routine colonoscopy at UCSD last month.  Nothing controversial about that, right? 

I had had a bizarre experience at Kaiser three years ago when I paid Kaiser $10 for a DVD of the digital video of my VUCG (or "VCUG").  Then suddenly the radiology imaging department claimed that there were no digital images of the procedure--even though the X-rays were done at the brand new Garfield Specialty Center advertised as having all-digital X-rays.  Kaiser said that it only had a few odd thermal paper images of the June 15, 2011 procedure.

So naturally I wanted to make sure that the same thing wouldn't happen at UCSD.  A couple of days before my colonoscopy I called to make sure that I would be able to get a DVD of the procedure.

UCSD's gastroenterology department told me that they don't save any of the digital data generated during colonoscopies.

This is what UCSD claims:

1. The patient can't get a second opinion from any doctor who wasn't watching the computer monitor during the procedure.

2. UCSD is very vulnerable to lawsuits; it can't prove that it wasn't negligent if the patient develops colon cancer that was missed.

3. UCSD can't learn from its mistakes.  It can't go back and see what it was they missed so they can do a better job in the future.

4. A few seconds after the patient leaves, the doctor (and patient) are out of luck if the doctor suddenly thinks, "Hey, what was that I was looking at?  Maybe that was something important.  I'd like to see that again."  Nope.  No chance.   According to UCSD, the images have been flushed from its computers.

5.  UCSD says they don't save the images because it takes up too much space on the hard drive.

Yeah, right.  Digital memory is getting cheaper by the month, so why would UCSD have suddenly stopped saving digital data recently?  They used to give patients DVDs, and before that they gave VHS tapes of colonoscopies.  Those tapes were a lot more expensive and bulky than digital memory.

I asked if I could pay extra to get my procedure saved, but they said NO.  The procedure costs $1300 minimum.  You'd think that would cover a bit of space on the hard drive, wouldn't you?  Well, of course it does.  They just don't want patients to see the images.

These days many doctors in the US are so dead set against patients seeing the images that they sedate everybody, even people who've had colonoscopies before without sedation and didn't have any problem.  They'd rather take the risk of a bad reaction to drugs than to let patients see the video.  I watched doctors on You Tube showing the whole process, and the first thing they asked patients when they woke up was, "Do you remember anything?"  The patients all said NO. 

When I suggested that I didn't believe that UCSD flushed the digital data, UCSD suggested that I go somewhere else if I wanted a DVD.

So I found a doctor who would give me a DVD of my colonoscopy.

The new doctor wants me to get some lab work done, so I went to UCSD today to get blood drawn.

The nurse who drew my blood was very sweet, but it quickly became clear that she had been tasked with finding out who had agreed to give me a DVD of a colonoscopy.  Why would UCSD want to know that?

"Where are you going for your colonoscopy?" she asked.

I didn't want UCSD calling up the doctor and demanding that he not give me a DVD.

"I don't think I should say, since UCSD doesn't approve of patients getting DVDs," I told her.

"Oh, no," she said.  "It's not that.  It's just that we don't do DVDs."

Fine, I thought.  So we're all happy and relaxed about this situation.  I sat back in my chair and the nurse put a pillow on my lap.

"So are you getting it done at a hospital?" she asked.  It seemed that my nurse was not so happy and relaxed about the situation after all.

I didn't want to say YES and I didn't want to say NO.   I didn't want to tell the truth or tell a lie.  So I didn't say anything.  

I was afraid she'd be mad at me and poke me painfully with the needle, but she was very careful. I only felt a tiny pinch.  And then we said friendly good byes.

Message to UCSD: she tried.  She really did try.  But I had planned ahead of time that I wouldn't spill the beans.  So don't blame the very sweet girl who couldn't get the information out of me.

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