'Rampant' Health Problem: an Escort to the Clinic

It can be a significant burden for many, and may cause them to skip outpatient procedures
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2023 3:45 PM CDT
'Rampant' Problem: An Escort for Outpatient Procedures
Stock photo.   (Getty/kazuma seki)

Anyone who's had an outpatient medical procedure involving anesthesia knows the drill: Their clinic or doctor probably requires them to have an escort bring them to the procedure and take them home. Sometimes, they even require the escort to wait there during the procedure itself. As a story in the New York Times lays out, that requirement can be a serious burden on single people, particularly older ones who might be widowed or divorced with far-flung children. As an example, the story focuses on a 72-year-old man who keeps putting off a colonoscopy because it's so difficult to arrange the transportation angle.

Calling Uber or Lyft doesn't cut it, because clinics typically require escorts to accompany the patient into the facility and agree to escort them back out and see that they're safely back in their homes as the sedatives wear off. Medicare doesn't cover the cost of arranging for such escorts, and health insurers typically don't, either. That results in people skipping their health appointments. It's a "rampant" problem, says the director of a nonprofit in the Boston area that coordinates volunteers for such rides. "We see it every day," says Janet Seckel-Cerrotti of FriendshipWorks. "It's hard on your dignity." Patients in this situation "need a plan," advises an essay in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois, by an anesthesiologist and her husband, who works in public policy.

That might start with the patient asking for help from their medical provider, who could be able to arrange help through what amounts to a hodgepodge of possibilities, including volunteer networks and home-care agencies. Still, "it shouldn't be up to the patient to figure it out," the patient in the Times story tells the newspaper, whose story suggests the issue will only grow more pronounced as the population ages. (More health care stories.)

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