How about Saving a Tree?

July 20, 2010
David Lubin, MD

I don't consider myself a "green" fanatic, but I do recycle. So when I see someone wasting paper it drives me crazy; there go more trees.

I don’t consider myself a “green” fanatic, but I do recycle. I save newspapers, bottles, cans, plastic items, and anything else that can be recycled at home, and even have a bag hanging in the office to collect stuff there. I collect recyclables after our medical association meetings. I drink bottled water, but don’t feel that guilty about it since I do recycle the bottles.

So when I see someone wasting paper it drives me crazy; there go more trees. Whenever I request patient records from other physicians or hospitals, I make a note to include only recent progress notes and significant labs and tests. I’ve received back-to-work slips from 10 years before and old insurance information. On the other hand, when records are requested from me, I personally go through and pull out what I think is necessary for continuity of care. Most doctors probably aren’t interested in progress notes anyway, only labs and diagnostic tests.

So when I requested records--“No notes or demographics”--from one of our hospitals and got back some of what I REALLY wanted, but also 11 pages of useless ER notes, I was ticked off.

It’s not just that someone is wasting MY paper, but also MY ink. Have you priced ink cartridges lately? You can buy a new fax machine for under $100. But when you have to replace the cartridges, they can cost $30-$40. And then a message comes up, every once in a while, that the drum needs replacing. I still haven’t figured out what the “drum” does, but those are even more expensive than the ink cartridges.

So I got aggressive. I faxed the 11 pages BACK to the person who faxed them to us. I added a message to the medical records clerk, which said, “Please note above. NO NOTES. Ink is expensive.” I was hoping that I had made my point.

A few days later I received, IN THE MAIL, the same 11 pages, with the face sheet I had faxed back to her. I laughed, but then wondered if she was playing my own game with me, or just decided that it was better to mail them than fax them to me…so that I could have ANOTHER copy? Maybe she thought that since I faxed them back to her, I was now without those notes, so she would MAIL them back to me. You think?

I was afraid to call the medical records department at the hospital to find out. Very, very afraid.