Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Difficulty in Getting Your Affairs in Order in the Digital Age

I have something I call the "If Jeremy Gets Hit By A Bus" document.

It's essentially a guidebook to the NFO and executors of my will for how to manage our affairs.

I update it once a year or so and give a paper (yes, paper) copy to those who need it for safe keeping.

Over the years, however, I realize just how complicated it is becoming to communicate the various, far flung elements of our financial life.

How about a site that has a username and password and requires 2-factor authentication in the form of a text message or a Google Authenticator random series of numbers?

Now, you don't just need my password, you also need my phone...and you need the password to my phone.

And what if I change the password in the middle of the year?

Now, you need access to my online password manager, with its own username and password and text message.

And what happens if my phone is destroyed in the accident that takes my life prematurely?

Now, you need to be able to access my email accounts...but that requires my phone.

I don't even know how to work around all this. Just doing my best.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Art, Vienna, World War II and fleeing Jewish Women

Maybe the odds are higher than I realize, but the fact that I watched only 2 movies on the flight back from Brazil last week and BOTH of them were about Jewish women who escaped WWII Vienna and had a deep connection to art struck me as an unusual coincidence.

The first was Woman in Gold. Helen Mirren was fantastic and there were some very entertaining lines, such as:

Randol Schoenberg: It's hard to believe Hitler once applied to be an art student here.
Maria Altmann: I wish they'd have accepted him.

Randol Schoenberg: I could've searched for the file on my own.
Maria Altmann: I wasn't going to miss all the fun. This is like a James Bond film, and you're Sean Connery!

But obviously, it covers a very serious subject and it was extremely moving to see justice get done.

The second was The Longest Ride. To be fair, the movie wasn't specifically about a Jewish woman, but it had her playing a very central part.  I had never heard of the movie, but it really moved me as well. I thought Alan Alda did a great job and the parallel love stories was a great angle.

Anyway...it just struck me as odd and, well, I had to document it.

Other movie recommendations are welcome.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Travel in the Age of Google

I just got back from Brazil and I realized how much travel has changed...and a large part of it is Google.

I had a SIM card for my phone, so thanks to Google Maps, I was able to navigate the streets of Sao Paolo (safely, I might add).

I was able to use Google voice to text home to the NFO.

But the app that changed the game for me was Google Translate.  I had a full on conversation with my taxi driver simply by talking to him and having him talk back into the phone.

In a bar, I held my phone up using the camera function and via Translate, it superimposed the translation of the Portuguese sign into English in front of my very eyes.

It was crazy.

I was able to order drinks, communicate with shop workers, and more. No more hand signals or drawings.

Time savings.

Now, while I'm here, I do need to mention another app which I think is incredibly useful, because although Google is great, you need wi-fi or a data connection to make it work. Plus, it doesn't teach you the language, it just helps you survive.

On the other hand, if you want to learn a language AND have it available to you offline (can be VERY valuable) check out Smigin.  It's very slick.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Parental Milestone

Paco is going to sleep away camp for the first time this week.

I knew I would miss him, but I didn't think I would feel just HOW MUCH I would miss him.  I'm used to being the one going away. He's always a constant at home.

It feels like we are hitting a point on his development towards being fully independent. Well, I know we are, but it brings me a sense of happiness and sadness.

Happiness because of how we've developed him until now. Sadness b/c of the time that is gone, never to be experienced again.

It's so tough, as you all know, in the day to day, to remember (always) to cherish each moment with your kids (and your friends/family) because of how fleeting it is. I guess that's why moments like these are so important and helpful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If Your Pediatrician Doesn't Care: What would you do?

If you got a bill from your pediatrician's office after your kids (and you) had a series of horrific patient/customer experiences, would you refuse to pay it?

Is that position justified?

How would you react if the pediatrician's office response was that they basically didn't care?

The NFO and I have been customers of Pediatric Associates in Wheaton, MD for almost 12 years.

We chose the office primarily because of the location/convenience (I know, not ideal), but also, when we started, we felt like we got great attention. More importantly, we felt like our kids got great attention.

Unfortunately, over the years, we have seen that change pretty dramatically.  I will say the nurses are, for the most part, really great. And there are a handful of doctors that seem to genuinely care.

However, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Still, partially because of convenience and mostly out of habit, we persist in going there.

My question today is: should parents at a Pediatrician's office expect a level of customer service similar to one they might receive elsewhere or when it comes to doctors is it "take it or leave it?"

What Happened Specifically
A few months ago, the NFO took in our son, Paco, who was vomiting continuously every single day with no fever or other apparent symptoms.  We came in a total of 2-3 times that week. Of course, we were charged for each visit.

On the 2nd visit, we were told by Dr. ___ that we should come in  yet again so that we could get to the bottom of the problem and help Paco feel better.  She was reluctant to bring Paco in yet again but she did.

On that visit, a different Doctor entered the room, sat down and asked the NFO a long list of questions and she answered them all.  The Doctor must have asked her three times if Paco had a fever (he didn’t) and repeated other questions.

In her mind, it appeared he wasn’t really listening to the answers.  When she asked him, what could be causing the vomiting and whether he recommended any tests (my brother-in-law, also a pediatrician, had recommended a stool sample be taken), he shrugged his shoulders and said (and we quote) “I dunno.”

The NFO requested a stool sample scrip and the Doctor gave one to her but the visit provided absolutely no added value or relief to Paco.

More importantly, it gave the NFO the distinct impression that the Dr. couldn’t care less and wasn’t willing to put any effort into healing our son.

There have been a few other examples of this type of non-care, the most egregious of one was when one of the doctors prescribed amoxicillin for one of our kids even though her chart clearly indicated she was allergic to it, because she had had an extremely violent reaction previously and it could now be fatal to her.

Despite that, a few months later after a positive strep throat diagnosis, we went to the pharmacy after the Rx had been called in...only to see that it was for amoxicillin.

So....given this recent pattern and the last Doctor's total non-chalance/disinterest/poor bedside manner, I was pretty irritated when I got a bill for Paco's vomiting visits saying that I still owed the $105 (after insurance's part was paid).

I called the billing office up (and wrote a very detailed letter) and said basically, "look, I've been paying bills to you for 12 years...that's a lot of money...given all that has recently transpired, in good conscience, I can't pay this bill. It has been a series of horrific customer/patient experiences and I need to know you care."

Their answer?

Basically, "go to hell, we're sending this to collections."


  • What would you do?
  • What can you do?
  • Should we just "suck it up" and pay?
  • File a complaint with the state board of physicians?
  • Am I overreacting?

Obviously, leaving the practice is at the top of the list, but as someone who spends his days working to help companies give great customer experiences, it just rubs me the wrong way and my sense of consumer justice is violated.