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Be sure to have cash when you're in labor

August 25, 2009
by kate
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Between my sisters and my friends, there’s quite an impressive baby boom going on. Within the last eight months, two of my sisters and my sister-in-law have delivered babies (two boys and a girl), and two of my closest friends are expecting. So naturally, I’ve heard a lot of talk about various experiences with doctors and hospitals. And I have to say, it’s been very interesting — and in some cases, pretty eye-opening.

Last December, my sister Meg gave birth to her son Connor at CentraState Medical Center, a community hospital in Freehold, N.J. that I had toured a few months earlier with CIO Neal Ganguly. I was very happy to see that CentraState lived up to everything it said about making the patient (and family) experience as pleasant as possible. My Dad still raves about the comfortable furniture in her private room and the flat screen TVs.

For my sister Chris, however, the experience wasn’t so rave-worthy. Now, I should preface this by saying that the hospital where she delivered her daughter Riley (see photo below) last Wednesday did take very good care of the baby, which of course is most important. But I wasn’t impressed with the treatment of the mom. During her stay at the hospital, which is part of a healthcare delivery system, my sister was approached numerous times by numerous people — none of whom called her by name — with different bills and statements, often waking her up to give her documents she needed to address. I understand that hospitals need to collect on bills, but surely there is a better way than handing folder after folder to someone just coming out of (a rather lengthy) labor.

She was also approached by a photographer trying to sell her photos of her baby, and another person peddling the hospital’s custom birth announcements. All of this was happening while my sister was extremely tired and wasn’t exactly up for dealing with solicitors. What she really wanted, she told me, was for one of the random people walking in to offer her a snack.

But probably the worst part was the fact that there was a fee to watch the TV in the room. At one point during my sister’s labor while she was resting and her husband Tom went to turn on the TV, he was told it would cost $4.50 per day. Before Tom could ask the attendant to charge it to their bill, the woman asked him if that would be cash or charge. The TV watching fee, it seems, must be paid up front.

Again, I understand that these are tough times and hospitals have to make money, but there’s got to be a better way. Women who have just been through labor shouldn’t be bombarded by paperwork, they shouldn’t be approached about buying photos, and they shouldn’t have to shell out cash to watch TV.

Of course, the most important thing is for patients to get the best possible treatment, but shouldn’t caring for them be a priority too?



Great post, Kate. But the pic really takes the cake!!

Cute baby! Where's Conner?
I agree regarding the folks making sales calls or wanting forms signed as you try to get your head together from a long /difficult procedure (same thing happened during my recent stay).

But the a la carte charges...well now we pay for bags on the airplane. I heard today SWest will charge $10 to get on the front of the line, and I recently had to pay United $14 to get a seat assignment! Oh, and don't forget the separate 'resort' and internet access fees at hotels.
Unfortunately with the economy the way it is, it's going to be an a la carte world for quite awhile.

And hopefully they didn't charge for THAT!

You've made a strong case that healthcare should learn the right lessons from other industries. Having nurses walking around with credit card readers for add-on services seems counter to healthcare's mission. Hopefully, those TVs did have free programming covering post-discharge, newborn care and feeding materials.

Aunt Kate,

Congrats on the beautiful niece! The description of your sister's stay in the hospital is quite awful, but I do believe that before long, all businesses that want to stay in business will have to be customer-service centric, due to the unmatched reach of Social Media.

For example, say your sister had a Twitter account, with a lot of followers of child bearing age, and thanks to that epidural that they just charged her a fortune for she was able to whip out her iPhone and Tweet, "OMG. I'm in labor at XYZ Hospital. All I want to do is watch Oprah and they want my credit card!" Can you imagine the ReTweets? Everyone in your neck of the woods would know about it. I'm just sayin'...


Kate: There is nothing like showing someone a (very large) hospital bill the day after they deliver a child to this world (are you kidding me?) that just takes away from the biggest moment of one's life. Why? Bad taste. Very bad.
I don't get it!

I think it's a question of knowing what to charge for and what not to charge for. For example, is the ill will created by charging $4.50 a day for TV worth the fact that it taints the overall hospital experience and, in fact, creates a blog post on HCI? Is it worth the revenue that it generates? Probably not.

I'll give you another example, I wanted to get a copy of my labs from my doctor, and was informed by the office staff that it would be $1.50 per page for the copies. I was so ANNOYED by this nickle and diming that, well, I paid the money. They are lucky that I'm too lazy to switch doctors. But I was annoyed nonetheless.