In which we tried to make appointments

Operator: …And what is your ZIP code?
Me: zero-one-five-two-zero
Operator: Could you repeat that?
Me: zero-one-five-two-zero?
Operator: Gerald?
Me: Zero
Operator: Gerald? G-e-r-a-l-d?
Me: My ZIP code is zero, um, oh-one-five-two-oh
Operator: And, your phone number?
Me: Z…five-oh-eight…

After last week’s surgery, I needed to make two appointments. One was with the doctor who performed the procedure. The other was with a nurse or nurse practitioner in a particular practice group.

I first tried the number provided to me on my hospital discharge paperwork and wound up in voice mail hell (VMH) with a series of unhelpful prompts that never identified what organization I had reached. Waiting to speak to an operator, I was repeatedly directed back to the VMH loop with prompts for department listing and employee directory, neither of which produced any recognizable result. Rather than choosing a random person from the list, I tried another tack.

My hospital discharge paperwork also provided the hospital’s main phone number. I called that number and explained what I was trying to do.

Operator: We don’t schedule for doctor’s offices.
Me: But this is the number I was given when I was discharged from the hospital.

After a bit of time, the operator provided me with a phone number. I called and listened to three minutes of dreaded hold music (DHM). I hung up, dialed again, listened to three more minutes of DHM, hung up, and tried my luck with the second task.

I went to the Saint Vincent Hospital website to find a number for the department where nurses and nurse practitioners allegedly worked. I could find no department number, only the option to choose a doctor from a list of, I’m sure, very qualified practitioners, but people I never knew. I chose one doctor at random and clicked the Call Now button which opened a popup on my computer and tried to make a call. This particular computer didn’t have my Google Voice set up to allow me to make calls, so the button did nothing.

Back to the Saint Vincent Hospital website, I tried a toll-free number associated with the department and spoke with the operator who thought that my ZIP code started with Gerald. After we’d sorted that out, she gave me the last names of nurses in that department, along with their phone numbers. The third one was 14 miles away, she said. I asked if the first two were in Worcester. “Yes,” she said. I chose the first one because I recognized the exchange. A Google search showed that the number was related to a practice group in another part of the city.

I jotted down the number and called. This time, the DHM was pseudo-Lynyrd Skynyrd interspersed with a series of boops and beeps that led me to the answering service for the Pain Click where I could cancel an upcoming appointment that I didn’t have. I left my name and phone number anyway.

Sandra and I went for a walk, and I told her what I’d not gotten done that morning. She suggested that I use MyChart to ask for help from my primary care physician’s team.

It worked.

Mostly.

I received a referral from my PCP to the department in question along with a phone number for said department. I called the number, listened to DHM for six minutes, followed by a series of telephone rings, followed by four more minutes of DHM, until I finally spoke to a person who was not pleased to be speaking to me (or anyone, I suspect). In spite of that, I received an appointment with a nurse for three days later.

A short while later, I received a message via MyChart from the surgeon’s office, asking if a date two-and-a-half weeks hence was good. I quickly replied that it was.

In conclusion:

Winners

  • Sandra
  • My PCP’s care team
  • MyChart

Mixed Results

  • Person who answered the phone after 10 minutes

Losers

  • Saint Vincent Hospital website
  • Saint Vincent Hospital telephone trees

Addendum

This might explain some of what’s going on: Report says there are 19,000 unfilled hospital positions in Mass. The people who are staffing these positions are basically good, hard-working, competent employees who want to help those for whom they care. There just aren’t enough of them.

In addition, several people with whom I’d had contact received what I call field promotions. They are put in customer-facing jobs for which they have neither the training nor temperament. I’m thinking about the phlebotomist who said I’d filled out a form incorrectly. She said, “You did it wrong.” twice. I’d had blood drawn from one arm earlier in the morning. She tut-tutted at the bruise and proceeded to give me a worse bruise on the other arm.

Zoom audio oddity

In a recent session, we encountered an as-yet unexplained problem with audio in a Zoom session.

The presenter used PowerPoint with embedded video clips. The audio in the clips could not be heard by many, perhaps most of the attendees. Audio from the presenter and other attendees was fine.

Although the Zoom version used by the presenter was a few months old (December 21, 2020 version 5.4.7 (59784.1220), there was no detectable pattern regarding who could hear the audio or not. Some with older and newer versions could not hear the audio, others could. Most people were using the Windows client. (Details may not be significant here.)

Unfortunately, there was no recording of the session.

So far, we’re exploring a few threads. None of these seem compelling, but we need to start somewhere.

  • The presenter was using an unencrypted session (for reasons yet to be determined).
  • The videos were both a series of pictures with an audio overlay and some downloaded, unedited YouTube clips.
  • Verifying that the presenter had the Share computer sound checked when screen sharing.

Update:

It works in practice, but not in theory.

We met with the presenter today. Audio from movies and YouTube was garbled and then nothing, video was jerky. Observers were on Windows and Mac. The presenter switched from his laptop to desktop. The desktop machine is a bit older. Don’t have the specs on either machine.

Audio and video worked fine on the desktop. We have something that works, even though we don’t have an explanation of why some attendees in the previous session could hear the audio, while others couldn’t.

I’ll take something that works over something that’s explainable any day.

“science is a social phenomenon”

An opinion piece in Scientific American, We Need Social Science, Not Just Medical Science, to Beat the Pandemic, reminds us that public health measures rely heavily on trust and community spirit. Science is necessarily incomplete because it’s continuously testing its findings against additional facts. Our general ability to adapt are much slower, often trailing the changes in scientific discovers by decades. For example, half of what we knew about hepatitis and liver disease 45 years ago has been superseded. Not knowing which half is obsolete can be deadly.

 

MacBooks and headphones

Apple discontinued the 3.5mm headphone jack and headphones in 2016, first changing to lighting ports and, soon, none at all.

Meanwhile, the new M1 MacBook has the aforementioned 3.5mm jack and one USB-C (MacBook Air) or two (MacBook Pro) port(s). Lucky, I kept an old set of headphones with a microphone in my briefcase. (Because of COVID, I haven’t gone any place where I needed to bring my briefcase in more than a year.)

One more instance that justifies my practice of throwing away little.

This

Found this on the floor.

If I throw it away, how soon will I realize that it was important.

If I don’t throw it away, will I ever need it?

Why Bernie Sanders needs to talk about race

The Supreme Court didn’t decide the election in 2000. Neither did Ralph Nader steal votes from the Democrats. Al Gore lost because he benched the best campaigner, Bill Clinton.

Gore was embarrassed by Clinton’s sexual misadventures and so didn’t have him campaign in traditional Democratic strongholds. The voter turnout was low enough in key states, such as Florida, that the race was close. It didn’t need to be close.

In a general election, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton don’t have to win votes from Donald Trump, Scott Walker, or any of the core Republican candidates. They have to energize their disaffected constituencies – minorities and young people in particular. If  black voters aren’t excited about Bernie, they’re not going to switch to any Republican in any significant numbers; they’re going to stay home. If Hillary can’t engage young people, they’re not going to vote for Marco Rubio in any significant numbers; they’re going to stay home.

Sanders has charmed the white liberals and made the campaign for the 2016 nomination interesting. If he is the nominee (largely because Clinton stumbles), most of the Clinton supporters will have little trouble voting for him. That, however, isn’t enough to win the election. He needs enthusiasm in the black community. So far, as noted by Clive McFarland, he’s embarrassingly unprepared.

There are some moderate, undecided voters who will study each candidate and make a choice on election day. I wish that the election was about winning their hearts and minds. Sadly, though, their numbers won’t matter compared the bigger impact of each part energizing its natural constituency.

The election will be decide more by who doesn’t vote than by who does.

I was the egg man

For most of my early working life, I was a short-order cook.

The biggest technical advancement in my era was the addition of a microwave oven,  one of those big units with a label warning people with pacemakers to keep their distance.

If you haven’t already discovered it, eggs will explode inside a microwave. There are a few ways to make this not happen, but none that made cooking an egg faster or better than on a grill or in a pot of boiling water.

EggMaster in action

Nevertheless, gadget-makers continue to try to improve egg cooking. As this article from The Guardian shows, they’ve yet to make much progress. The device produces “…without warning, a flaccid, spongy log half jumps from the machine, writhing like an alien parasite in search of a host body.”

The article links to Amazon UK. American readers can find a similar product on Amazon in the good, old US of A.

Amazon: where children never grow old

We’ve been buying books on Amazon for a long time. Some of our earliest purchases were the Spot series of kids’ books.

spotWe bought these books when our grandkids were young. The youngest is now 10 and getting older by doubles every day.

Nevertheless, Amazon believes that children never get older and we will always need Spot books.

good.night.spotWould that it were so.