Monday, February 29, 2016

Skool nerse time

This is Mrs. Grumpy,

Dear Kids,

There are a lot of innovative ways to cut class and/or get sent home, and I think it's commendable that you guys work together so well.

Sometimes even I get fooled.

Last Thursday, for example.

Getting a bunch of kids in with stomach aches isn't that unusual, especially since I can't test for them. But when a second crop began showing up with skin irritations and rashes on their hands, faces, and mouths... it certainly got my attention. I even called the state and poison control to see if there were reports coming from other schools along those lines (there weren't).

Until someone came in with bad eye pain, which I had to flush out with water... and they spilled the beans. Before that I really had no clue what you were all up to.

Apparently one of you cute tykes smuggled in several Carolina Reapers with your lunch. Some bravely tried to show off by eating them, while others just vigorously rubbed pieces on their skin to induce redness and swelling. And a few accidentally ended up getting it in their eyes, nasal tissues, and (in one horrifying case) rear end. ("It was an accident, Nurse Grumpy!" Uh-huh, sure.)

Fortunately, no students were permanently harmed in this debacle, though many parents were quite inconvenienced by me having to call them about what was going on. And the majority of them began laughing hysterically.

To recap:

1. Mrs. Decimal says you still have to make up the math test.

2. Your parents think you are idiots.

3. Scoville units are not to be taken lightly.

Have a nice day.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Why don't you just ask?

Seen in a hospital chart:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Random pictures

Okay, time to hit the mail bag for stuff you guys have sent in.

First is this Engrish sign:

Next up is this school job opening for, um, not sure:

Then there's a fortune cookie...

"Confucious say, when alone, use the self-service pumps."

Then there's this sign. "Lobster Happy Hour" apparently doesn't apply to the lobster:

Here's a vintage drug company promo piece. You'd think Viagra would have been a better choice:

Speaking of Viagra, here's a great pharmacy sign. Love the stick figure.

And, lastly, is this page from a telephone directory:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

One of these things is not like the others

Source: Alaska Airlines

Thank you, Laurie!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Max and Min

A bit of background explanation for my non-medical readers is required.

In pharmacology, the points at which a drug reaches the highest and lowest concentrations in the body are called Cmax and Cmin, respectively.

Last week I was at a meeting where the speaker kept pointing to graphs and saying things like "we obtained Cmin from testing healthy volunteers," "Cmin samples were analyzed by Whatzefukk chromatography," and "Overall, we were surprised by the Cmin values that were obtained."

And through it all... She didn't seem to realize what Cmin sounded like phonetically.

Immature as I am, it was hard not to snicker.

Friday, February 19, 2016

My readers write

Dear Dr. Grumpy,

I teach psychology courses at a community college.

I was teaching Intro Psych one quarter, and we were at the neuroscience portion of the course. One student spent every class either snapping her gum, texting, or staring off vacantly with ear buds in.

On exam day students were required to list the 4 lobes of the cerebral cortex and to write just one function of each lobe.  It's an easy section of the test for most students. This one, however, could only come up with 1 lobe and its function.

Her answer:   "Ear lobe - hearing."

Thank you, J!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The front line

Me and Pissy's office building has been remodeling the public bathrooms on each floor. This involves closing one and making the other a unisex john for a few days, then switching them off, then moving to the next floor.

This week they got to our floor and taped up their little "Unisex Restroom" and "Under construction" signs while they tore out old tile and fixtures. Honestly, I don't understand this. As long as a public bathroom is reasonably clean, most people don't care about the tiles or paintings. This is a medical office building, not the Waldorf-Astoria. Besides, each one just has a toilet and a sink, and the door locks. They're freakin' identical.

Anyway. Cut to day 3 of our floor's construction project:

Guy walks in, stands at counter.

Mary: "Can I help you sir? Do you have an appointment?"

Guy: "What is wrong with you people?"

Mary: "Uh, is there a problem?"

Guy: "YES! I'm tired of people like you, trying to make me think men and women are the same!"

Mary: "What are you talking about? This is a doctor's office."

Guy: "Instead of having separate men's and women's restroom's, you liberal PC types are trying to cram unisex bathrooms down my throat. I'm sick of this trend."

Mary: "Okay, that's not even our bathroom out there. And the sign is just temporary, while they're remodeling them."

Guy: "Oh... "

Mary: "Do you have an appointment with Dr. Grumpy or Dr. Pissy?"

Guy: "No, I just need to use the bathroom."


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seen in a chart

Thank you, B!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday humor

Friday, February 12, 2016

Advanced calculus

Mrs. Math: "How many kids do you have?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Three."

Mrs. Math: "Oh... I mean, that's more than two."

Dr. Grumpy: "Yeah."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Seen in a chart

Another fine example of the crap you see in today's worthless electronic charting systems:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Mary: "Can I get a copy of your insurance card?"

Mr. Card: "Sure... here you go."

Mary: "Um, you told me on the phone that you were with Medicare, but this insurance is Major Illness HMO."

Mr. Card: "Sorry, I must have been confused. Can you still see me?"

Mary: "We need a referral authorization from your internist."

Mr. Card: "They said they'd fax one. It's Dr. Wayoverthere. You didn't get it?"

Mary: "No, let me call them." (dials phone) "Hi, this is Mary, at Dr. Grumpy's. He's a neurologist on the west side? One of Dr. Wayoverthere's patients, Mr. Card, is here, and says you were going to fax a referral?"

Dr. Wayoverthere's staff: "He's lying. He's involved in a legal case, and trying to find a neurologist to say he has problems since he was hit by a kid on a tricycle. We've sent him to 2 neurologists on this side already, who say there's nothing wrong with him."

Mary: "Okay, thank you." (hangs up phone)

Mr. Card: "Is it coming now? Can you see me?"

Mary: "They said they didn't refer you here."

Mr. Card: "Maybe they didn't. I remember now, my attorney sent me. Can you get an authorization from him?"

Mary: "No, your insurance won't accept that. If you or your attorney wants to pay for the visit we can see you, but without an auth from Dr. Wayoverthere we can't see you under your insurance."

Mr. Card: "I'm not going to pay for this. I'm out of here. You guys are trying to pull a fast one on me."

Monday, February 8, 2016


Last week I was reviewing a research protocol which included the Beck Depression Inventory.

While looking through the questions I came across this one, and all I could think of was "How would Mick Jagger answer this?"

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Benjamins

Contrary to popular belief, even if you don't have a co-pay up-front, you still may end up paying a chunk of your bill. So we get calls all the time from people who don't understand the concept of a deductible or percentage of cost, angry that we had the audacity to charge them for their visit (maybe I should be angry at my landlord for charging me office rent, huh?).

Blood work is also an issue. Several insurances, especially Medicare, have a whole list of diagnoses you need to have in order for them to pay for your labs. This list is hysterically obsolete and unrealistic.

Yeah. Like those.

I'm in the middle here. If I order too many labs, Medicare will claim they weren't necessary for the condition (in spite of a crapload of medical literature saying otherwise) and the patient will get cranky because OMG THEY HAD TO PAY FOR SOME OF THEM. But if I don't order all the labs I run the risk of missing something and getting sued over it. The defense of "the insurance won't pay for the test" is legally worthless in court.

So I order what I think is appropriate. I'd rather get yelled at by patients over their bill then roasted by a lawyer for malpractice. By ordering it, I put the ball in the patient's court. If they don't want to have the test, that's their decision. But at least I tried.

So what happens when you go to the lab? Before they draw blood, you sign a form saying that you agree to pay any charges your insurance doesn't cover (for the record, you do that at my office, too. And probably every doc's office. If you didn't know that you just haven't read the fine print).

Then, if you sign it, they'll do the labs and bill your insurance. It there's any left over, they'll bill that to you.

This is where things get iffy, especially with Medicare and their outdated list of tests that will only be paid for IF you have a certain condition.

Let's say, for example, that a Medicare patient is having a neuropathy work-up, and needs a vitamin B12 level done. Most docs order a B12 level. I  do, too sometimes, but generally prefer checking methylmalonic acid (MMA). Due to its role in B12's metabolic pathway, it's actually more sensitive for B12 deficiency than B12 itself. You can see a normal serum B12 in people who are metabolically deficient in it, but the MMA nails it.

I order the MMA level. Of course, Medicare, with guidelines written during the Nixon administration, doesn't recognize it as a valid part of a neuropathy work-up. Yeah, craploads of medical research since the late 80's say otherwise, but who am I to argue with the Medicare rule book?

"Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a Medicare desk jockey."

So I order the methylmalonic acid anyway. Why? Because my job is to correctly diagnose the patient.

The bill for the MMA level gets sent to insurance, where it's screened by some of the last functioning TRS-80's left on Earth. Their programming sees "MMA level ordered for neuropathy. Test not needed per our guidelines. REJECT!"

The lab doesn't get paid for the MMA. They'll now send me a note asking for any more diagnoses that might get it covered.

So, in my 15 seconds of free time each day, I crack open the chart and fill out the form with EVERYTHING the patient has (hypertension, migraines, halitosis, genital herpes, 1948 exposure to mumps) hoping one of them will somehow get it to pass through the TRS-80's scanning on the 2nd try.

Sometimes it does, and we all live happily ever after. Other times it doesn't, the patient gets a bill, and calls my office.

Now Annie will usually take a crack at it, calling the lab and consulting a Ouija Board to see if we can find anything else going on with the patient that might get it paid for. I sign off on it, and we submit it for the 3rd go-round. I'd say this works maybe half the time. The rest of them... the patient gets another bill.

Some people recognize that healthcare isn't free, and that I'm doing my best to care for them. They pay their bill. Others, however, go apeshit and call to scream at us.

They demand I find a way to make their insurance pay it, even if it means fraudulently changing the ICD codes (nope). Or that I pay it myself (nope). Some of them even threaten me:

"Get this paid for, OR ELSE!"

"If this isn't paid, I'm complaining to the state medical board."

 "This needs to be covered, or you'll hear from my lawyer."

Because now it's MY fault that I'm trying to provide decent care.

What's really irritating is that these same people screaming about me ordering a test they now don't want to pay for... would also be the first ones in line to sue me if I didn't order it and missed the correct diagnosis. I try to be thorough, and want to figure out what's wrong with you. Plus, in the sad calculus of modern medicine, my fear of being sued trumps your wallet every time.

My office's best attempts failed. Now what happens?

The patient, like everyone else out there with bills, has to either pay them or go to collections. I did my best to help. I'm not going to practice second-rate medicine and risk missing something. They don't have to get the tests, but once they've signed off on the lab form and had them drawn, it's their responsibility. Some of these labs are hundreds to even a few thousand dollars, and they're being asked to pay for, say, $89.46 on labs that totaled $1015.58 (yeah, that's from a recent one that crossed my desk). I'm going to point out that's less than 10% of the total charge.

If you go to Target for a ginormous $900 TV, and they sold it to you for $80, you'd be thrilled. But in medicine? You go bananas that it isn't free.

"$79.99, and it wasn't even Black Friday."

Once my two appeals to get it covered have failed, I'm done. I did my best. I also remind myself that, even if I do find a way to get you out of paying for them... it means everyone else (including me) is.

My sympathy on this issue has run out. I'm tired of people demanding I care for them, then not wanting to pay their fair share of the costs. If I DIDN'T order these tests, and missed something, they'd come back and sue me. But if I do order them they whine.

My view has become it's their decision to have them or not. It's a tax deduction if they want to see it that way, but healthcare is NOT FREE. Someone is paying for it, even if it's not the patient. Everything that gets covered by insurance is passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher co-pays and premiums.

Providing competent medical care is not something you can sometimes do well and other times do a half-assed job on. You either go big or go home, so I choose to go big. The same applies to the patient. If you want an incomplete work-up, that's fine, but don't go wailing when something was missed because you refused testing. By the same token don't expect quality care to be free.

You get what you pay for.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mary's desk

Mary: "Dr. Grumpy's office, this is Mary."

Mrs. Grate: "I need to make an appointment with Dr. Darth."

Mary: "I'm sorry, you've got the wrong office. This is Dr. Grumpy's."

Mrs. Grate: "Okay, but I'd like to see Dr. Darth. Does he have anything open on Thursday?"

Mary: "Dr. Darth is across the street, you'll have to call his office. Let me give you their number."

Mrs. Grate: "If you have the number, can you please call them? I'd like something for Thursday, preferably in the afternoon."

Mary: "Ma'am, I can't make an appointment for you at another neurologist's office. I don't know what their schedule is, or what insurances they take, or their hours..."

Mrs. Grate: "You young people have never heard of customer service."


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Seen in a chart

Thank you, K!

Monday, February 1, 2016


Yesterday morning Craig was up early and trying to cook pearl barley for breakfast (no, I have no idea why, considering we have a pantry full of instant oatmeal). So, in the enterprising nature of modern life, he grabbed an iPad to ask Google how to cook pearl barley. As he typed some suggestions came up:

He woke me up (it was my day off, thanks Craig) laughing at this screen.

Drug addicts: I'm not sure microwaving urine will destroy whatever's in it, but it will give it that toasty "fresh from the bladder" warmth. Don't put it in for too long, or your parole officer will wonder why your urinary tract operates on the Kelvin scale. It will also make your kitchen and microwave stink (attention readers: do not try this at home).

For the record, when Craig discovered it took > 1 minute to microwave barley he decided on instant oatmeal.

I didn't even try to go back to bed.
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