Ontario has a service called Telehealth. The idea behind this service is to have nurses available by phone 24/7 to give people advice on whether or not they should go to emergency, the doctor's office or do nothing at all about various health concerns they may have. That idea sounds wonderful in theory because it should keep a lot of people who aren't actually very sick out of emergency rooms and reduce the workload of other health professionals. In practice there seem to be real issues with the way the service is provided and there are a lot of frustrations with trying to use it. I have called telehealth several times in the past couple years and every time has been very frustrating with the number of questions asked that are repetitive, contradictory or outrageous. The last time I called them was this past Friday night and it was really the worst of the worst.
"So how long has Elli had this sore stomach?"
"Has she had this issue for more than 2 hours?"
"Is this something that just started, or has it been going for some time?"
You would figure that after I give a very comprehensive answer to the first question the other two would be unnecessary, but regardless the nurse asked them anyway. After asking dozens of other questions she started reading me the advice blurb her script recommended and halfway through she stopped, realizing that she was reading the blurb for people who had just gotten the pain recently. She then reasked a few more questions and began to read the blurb that actually matched the answers I had given in the first place. It was also very frustrating because I gave her information like "The pain is very moderate, comes and goes, and Elli is mostly normal but complains sometimes." and then she would follow up with "Is Elli curled up in a ball in agony unable to move?" No, she isn't, which should be obvious from the statement I just finished making!
During a previous call the questions actually got kind of funny as I described that Elli had a cut near her eye from a fall. The nurse then asked me a series of questions like "Is her eye punctured?" "Is internal fluid leaking out of the eye through a wound?" I can imagine the existence of some kind of idiot who thought that a punctured eye might not warrant going straight to 911 !!! but I had clearly and completely described the wound in question and noted that no actual eye damage had occurred.
The nurses that answer these calls seem to have some notable tendencies towards incompetence but that is almost certainly not the whole story. Surely they are legally bound to ask all kinds of ridiculous questions to avoid liability even when the questions make no sense. They can't just let me describe the situation but must ask predetermined questions one after the other to make sure that they don't leave themselves open to litigation. Certainly asking a lot of questions in this sort of situation is good but asking questions you already have answers to just to have that answer recorded in the appropriate spot is wasteful and annoying. These calls tended to take a good 40 minutes to complete even though realistically the nurse could have gotten all the information they needed to give me advice in 5 minutes. That wouldn't be much of a concern except that I did have to wait on hold a long time to get a nurse (bad if there is an actual emergency) and if this system was more efficient it would free up nurses for other duties. I find it endlessly frustrating to have my time and the time of a medical professional dedicated to avoiding pointless litigation.