A digital healthcare development company earlier this month put up a social media outlet to let patients tell the world their horror stories and views about dealing with the U.S. healthcare system.
And thus far patients are actively sharing their rants, comments and reviews online—with gusto. Since Dec. 7, when HealthSparq, a Portland, Ore., developer of web-based comparison shopping tools for a range of healthcare organizations launched the hashtag #WhatTheHealthCare on Twitter and Facebook, the number of consumers sharing their story has averaged about a tweet per hour. So far #WhatTheHealthCare on Facebook has about 705 likes.
Many of the comments patients and consumers are posting have to do with being harassed for payment, mishandled treatments and related poor customer service and treatment from healthcare payers and providers. One patient on Facebook wrote about an overeager physician’s office demanding co-payment upfront. “I had an ultrasound ordered at a doctor’s office (a referral)…these people harassed me for days prior to my appointment that I would need my $200 copay,” she wrote. “The day of the appointment they all but met me at the car requesting the copay. A few weeks later, my refunded check arrived at my home from this doctor’s office as my health insurance company had covered it all.”
On Twitter another patient told of the end result of not scheduling a procedure properly. “Two different offices this week mis-scheduled injections I depend [on]. I will now wait another month in pain.”
The majority of the posts on #WhatTheHealthCare on Facebook and Twitter are on specific experiences. Some of the top #WhatTheHealthCare tweets on Twitter include:
- “It has taken 3 weeks of failed faxes to realize that I have to physically drop off my health records to my new insurer.”
- “And my mom is back in the ER because of her lung. She’s been there 5 hours and still isn’t in an exam room.”
- “When the nurse didn’t know what endometriosis is and I had to explain.”
- “Waiting for surgery, ‘patient advocate’ announced “you can all expect to wait for hours, our doctors are busy.”
- I was released from the ER while in pain from having a sickle cell crisis because ‘I looked better.’”
- “Went to ER with severe headache, slurred speech. Sent home saying I was stressed. One hour later I had a stroke.”
- “Filling out all those forms, over & over, at practically every stop along the way.”
- “My daughter’s bill for a nursemaid’ elbow fix at the emergency room (3 seconds) $1,976.”
- “While signing up for healthcare, I was just asked if I died last year. In fact I did not.”
- “How is it possible that I only qualify for $3.15 in tax credits when I make well under the limit.”
The #WhatTheHealthCare social media campaign is meant to bring attention to the problems consumers and patients are encountering with healthcare, and to give consumers another outlet to share their stories, comments, experiences and problems with others, says HealthSparq chief marketing officer Burt Rosen.
“#WhatTheHealthCare was born out of those internal discussions that we’ve always had—stories about people and their families who have had to jump through hoops, faced outrageous medical bills or have gone without health services due to the frustrating healthcare system,” Rosen says. “We created WhatTheHealthCare to provide a platform and a voice for people who want to share their own ridiculous healthcare stories and to shine a bright spotlight on the irritating things that repeatedly happen and just plain shouldn’t.”