Software snarl riles patients of Danbury network doctors and hospitals
DANBURY — When Ann Marie Seavy-Cioffi took her 93-year-old mother to Danbury Hospital for a scheduled blood transfusion last week, a “computer glitch” meant they had to wait four hours for the procedure to begin.
By the time it started, there was time to transfuse only one pint of blood, and Seavy-Cioffi said she was asked to bring her mother back in a couple of days.
“If this was your mother, you would be as outraged as I am,” she wrote on the hospital’s Facebook page. “Shouldn’t I be?”
On Monday, 80-year-old Carole Conaway spent the afternoon carrying her phone around while on hold with her doctors’ offices. She needed to schedule appointments with her primary care doctor and the specialist who treats her for her kidney disease, but gave up after 1 1/2 hours.
“It just rankled me,” Conaway said. “I just hung up. I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
Seavy-Cioffi and Conaway were just two of many patients complaining about problems reaching doctors, scheduling appointments and obtaining other services since the Western Connecticut Health Network upgraded its computer system at the beginning of the month.
The health network concedes that there have been problems, and asked patients for patience as it transitions to a new system for billing, scheduling and maintaining electronic health records.
WCHN switched to the new system on March 3 after two years of preparation. The health network said the system will help “better serve our patients and provide consistent quality care,” and allow its three hospitals and scores of doctors’ offices to use the same system.
“Patients are receiving the same great clinical care that they have always received,” WCHN officials said Tuesday in a statement. “As with any large scale technology transition, the true test comes when staff begin using the new system. While our providers adjust to this new technology, patients may notice longer wait or appointment times or increased presence of support staff.”
But Conaway said the recent problems mark a stark difference from the care she is used to, that receptionists at her doctors’ offices know her well and that she has never had a problem making appointments.
“Normally, I have a very good experience with Danbury Hospital,” Conaway said. “I feel like family with them.”
Noting that she worked for 22 years in the radiology department at Danbury Hospital, she recalled the “nightmare” adjustment for staff when the hospital got computers in the 1990s.
“I understand with new electronics it takes awhile to get it straightened out, but an hour and a half trying to make two appointments, that’s ridiculous,” Conaway said.
Conaway, who uses a motorized scooter and relies on the SweetHart bus to bring her to the doctor’s, had to cancel earlier appointments because of the snow. She said she does not need to see a doctor immediately, but should go soon.
“It’s not serious for me, but it could be,” she said.
Danbury resident Danee Pross said her Southbury doctor’s office called almost two weeks ago asking her to reschedule a routine appointment. But after calling during mornings and lunch breaks for more than a week, Pross has been unable to get through.
“It’s kind of common sense that if they call you to reschedule, they need to answer their phone,” Pross said.
She has tried calling other Western Connecticut Health Network offices in Danbury and Ridgefield, but they could not help either, Pross said.
“What do you do from that point on?” she said. “Switch different doctors?”
Pross planned to call again Tuesday, but if she couldn’t get through, she said she would use an old-school method: the fax machine.
“I’ve given up enough of my time,” Pross said.