As I See It

The dreaded patient information packet

Years before I become the chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Management, it was always my favorite ophthalmology publication, primarily because of the “management” part. The clinical side was informative, but what I enjoyed most were the everyday practice pearls I learned. And now I have another to bestow upon you, a pet peeve of mine I was just subjected to.

My doctor suggested I get further advice regarding a certain condition and made an appointment for me to see a specialist at a major medical institution. I’m not that enamored with major medical institutions; I often find there’s way too much money wasted on hype and that when you get right down to it, the staff are just good doctors and nurses, much like you find in smaller communities — only weighed down by massive bureaucracies.

Then, about three weeks before my appointment, it arrived — the dreaded patient information packet. Ten pages of information to read and fill out. Which I did, but with the full intent that two crimes I found committed by this institution would be punished by ending up in an editorial, the one you are currently reading.


The first crime was redundancy. It was as if no one had ever bothered to read the form from front to back. On page one, I was asked to either bring all my medications with me or bring a list of the meds — a reasonable request. But on page four I was asked also to write down all my medications. I also had to print my name five times on these forms — in one instance on the front and back of the same page. My birthdate was requested four times, my signature twice.

Two times, I was asked not only to date the form but to record the time of day. I can’t imagine the relevance of repeatedly asking such a thing. I put 3:34 a.m.


The second crime was even worse. Anyone who has worked with me for long knows my feelings on this: Copies of copies. That is, create a perfectly good form and make several copies for distribution. Lose the original, and when down to the last one, make copies of that copy. Repeat this cycle for years, maybe decades, until you get to the forms I was mailed and asked to complete.

The logo was faded. Columns were slanted. Random smudges and specks from old copying machines punctuated white space that needed no punctuation. Smaller print was nearly illegible. And the maps — there is really nothing like maps that have been copied dozens of times. I don’t wish to embarrass the institution by publishing the map I received, but I still feel I ought to. There was no possible way for that degraded map to retain any usefulness.

Despite the promises of technology, for the near future paper forms will remain with us. Please take this editorial to your office manager and do a wholesale sweep of your office forms. Realize that this was my initial contact with the doctor to whom I’m about to entrust my health. Just as 30-year-old issues of Field & Stream in your waiting room don’t conjure visions of an up-to-date practice, neither do copies of copies. OM