The Definition of STAT = Take Your Time, No Hurry

(This post has been updated -- check out the response from the imaging company.)

Saturday morning my husband was doubled over in pain, which he described as feeling like someone had shoved a baseball bat up inside his ribcage.

Our primary care doctor maintains Saturday office hours, so after a quick phone call, off we went. They were wonderful -- called us in within a few minutes of arrival, did a quick assessment, took blood, urine, and then a did CT scan.

The blood test results came back - fast. The urinalysis results came back - fast.

The CT scan he needed was taken care of by a third party imaging company. The request was put in by the PCP and labeled STAT. STAT is a medical term which means urgent or rush -- we've all heard it on medical TV shows for years. It is abbreviated from the Latin term statim which means immediately. I saw the orders, and STAT was written in several different places on the request.

What does STAT mean to you? 20 minutes? 45 minutes? An hour? Two hours?

According to the imaging company, STAT means 4-1/2 hours. Yes, that's how long it took to get the results of the CT scan.

The diagnosis? A kidney stone, which, by the time we got the CT scan results, had been passed. End of story. So it begs the question -- why did he even need the CT scan?

It took so long to get the results, in fact, that we were sent home after three hours so we wouldn't have to just hang out there.

The PCP called with the CT scan results almost 1-1/2 hours after we arrived home. By then our reactions were -- oh really? What else is new?

Did I play the empowered patient card? You bet -- to the extent I could. As my husband dealt with his kidney stone, I found people who could answer as best they could.

As we went into the second hour and the third hour, I was squeaky wheeling every which way.

Included was one answer that indicated that the reason CT results take so long is because they are sent digitally to someone somewhere else to be read. Where? Maybe New York, or Chicago, or somewhere in California -- or China or India? Who knows where?

At one point, a young woman told me,"Oh, yes, STAT means we might hear back today. If we don't write STAT on the order, we won't hear for a week."

I have very mixed feelings about this situation.... I try to see it from both sides... it was a Saturday, the primary and his staff took care of everything they could, they were also at the mercy of the imaging company's choice of remote radiologists -- and felt as out of control of the situation as we did.

From our perspective, my husband was no longer in pain... but waiting a total of 5-1/2 hours from the time we arrived at the doctor's office until he had an answer, seems like a very long time to wait for something that said STAT on it!

The imaging company is trying to save expense. Rather than have a radiologist on call to read films 24/7, they instead contract with a firm that provides that service -- a less expensive option.... but....

Suppose my husband had been really sick or hurt with something that got worse quickly? When does STAT mean STAT? Whose responsibility is it to keep the value of that designation -- so that next time someone needs an image read STAT, they are well served?

And now our insurance will pay for a CT scan that in retrospect, really wasn't even necessary. Every time insurance pays for something unnecessary, it drives up the cost for all of us.

Don't know the answers... just venting here more than anything else. Anyone have a suggestion? Have you run into this problem?

Hubby is doing well, by the way. Drinking lots of water which is always a good idea, and which may be the only good advice I can provide in today's post.

(This post has been updated -- check out the response from the imaging company.)

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