In August 2008, Gary Kujat checked himself into the hospital for a staph infection. What should have been a routine visit to treat a common disease turned into what he called “a five-day hospital stay nightmare,” resulting in a massive medical bill, for which the hospital offered no explanation.
After three near-death encounters at the hospital, Kujat said that he was given over 40 different drugs, including high levels of morphine and fentanyl. He knew that those high amounts wouldn’t be necessary if he was allowed to sleep at least six hours per night, so he tried to discuss the situation with multiple doctors. One provider in particular sticks in Kujat’s memory.
“I learned later he was a psychiatrist [who] prescribed drugs that I didn’t need,” Kujat said.
The lack of explanation offered about Kujat’s medication was only the beginning of the hospital’s failure to be transparent.
“I signed release papers for [the doctor] to get my medical records from the hospital, but he never got them,” Kujat said. “I went to the hospital three different times to get copies and was told they were not complete.”
Two years passed, and while the hospital failed to release Kujat’s medical records, it sued him for his unpaid bills – which he had never seen. In response, he contacted the hospital’s lawyer to finally review the charges the hospital was suing him over.
“I was completely shocked at the number of drugs I was given and the amounts,” he said.
While facing unexpected charges was a horrible experience, Kujat is most concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability that he faced while trying to gain access to his medical records.
“There are no timeline listings of the number of MRIs, CT Scans, X-rays, or the amounts of radiation I have been exposed to over my lifetime,” he said. “Not having this vital information to review, how can doctors make medical decisions or recommendations to the patient?”
Improved transparency in both pricing and record-keeping would provide huge benefits for patients, Kujat said.
“It would have allowed doctors to review my medical conditions before the appointment,” he explained. “It may reduce healthcare providers from padding their services, it would reduce healthcare costs, and it would give patients more control and information concerning their healthcare.”