07/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You Actually Want To TALK To The Doctor?

Nearly a month ago I took one of my teenaged children to the best of the best doctors. We'd been trying to get a diagnosis for a few years regarding recurring abdominal pain. I was charged more than $1100 for the initial office visit. When I got the bill, I called to see if there was some mistake. There wasn't.

What surprised me next was that after informing me with palpable urgency that my daughter needed an endoscopy, we've been waiting for nearly four weeks post-procedure to hear back from the doctor.

I've called three times. Finally someone got back to me. "No, they had not lost the results," she assured me. But she didn't share them. "Had I called about something specific? A problem?" I felt like screaming, "THE TEST RESULTS!!!!." She would have the doctor call me. That was last week.

Two people I've shared this story with have said, "If there was something wrong, he'd call." But, that's not good enough. Why should it be?

Now, let me just say that if this doctor can help my child, that's the main thing. He's brilliant and seems pleasant. And I am grateful to be able to afford him -- this time. But these events sure made me yet again aware of how difficult it is going to be for President Obama and his team to figure out how to deliver quality healthcare to all Americans. Even when you're spending an outrageous amount and know your way around medical systems, you can't get some doctors to return your call. Oh, and did I mention that this facility is part of the president's alma mater, Harvard? Surely they can do better.

If my daughter were in significant pain right now, we would be camped outside the doctor's office. And that may yet happen as the pain often comes on without warning. But while I anticipate closure soon, one way or another, I thought I'd share this frustrating medical misadventure. They happen every day to thousands of people - many not knowing where to turn. It reminds us that cost is only one factor in the quest for quality health care, that patients may need to do with fewer options but on the delivery side there need to be some changes too, and in a small way - as real life stories do-- it exemplifies the monumental, multi-sided nature of the important task before us.

Prof. Reardon also blogs at bardscove-- (continuation of story posted there).