Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wife Takes Husband’s Name, Race, Ethnic Identity

(My Patient Fusion profile still unchanged as of 12:05 PM, June 16, 2015)

You might think gone are the days when census enumerators would “guesstimate” a person’s race and human resources personnel would “correct” employees’ forms behind their backs. But perhaps they’re not.

As some of you may know, I sprained my knee during an exercise/dance class on April 30 and have been trying to recuperate while juggling appointments with my primary care physician, orthopedic specialist, and MRI clinic. Yesterday, I was tending to some related paperwork and took the time to register on to Patient Fusion, the online platform for sharing medical records that the orthopedic office uses. Just imagine my surprise when I logged on and found my profile completed with the wrong race and ethnic information.

That’s right. “Race” was filled in with WHITE. “Ethnicity” with HISPANIC OR LATINO.

Say what?

I’d blame the Tramadol, but I’d quit taking it weeks before my appointment because it was making me nauseous. I was definitely in might right mind when I checked in and filled out the forms. Thought maybe the office staff had just gone with the first thing I checked off (WHITE) and didn’t notice the second (AFRICAN AMERICAN). That would explain the first mistake, but not the second. And after thirty-plus years of being repeatedly mistaken as Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, et al. - by my own kind even – I’m not about to mark HISPANIC anywhere. This was a medical form, not an appropriate place for jokes.

So I called up the orthopedic specialist's office and alerted one of the staff members to the problem. As we were talking, he said he was correcting it, but there’s no change yet. Maybe the system takes 24 hours to update. But that’s not really what’s bothering me. It’s his excuse.

To relate the conversation in a nutshell: He said that the office didn’t ask patients to self-identify on their forms because some might fear discrimination by staff. (I suppose that’s a valid concern since I think 100% of the staff and a majority of the patients are Armenian. The few nons might be uncomfortable.) However, government agencies request demographic information on patients. (Makes sense. They compile lots of statistics on how often certain groups use certain services, which groups are at risk for certain health problems, etc.) The staff’s solution – and I got it straight from the horse’s mouth – is to check off whatever boxes they deem appropriate based on the patient's last name and appearance on the photo ID.

Never occurred to them to look at me instead of my ID, which would’ve likely led them to think BLACK or even mixed. Never occurred to them to compare my spouse’s name (identified as such and listed under “Emergency Contact”) with mine and look up the national origin of VAUGHN instead of ESTRADA. I suppose they never thought that (1) they’d guess wrong and (2) in this digital age, they’d be found out.

Am I angry? Not really. It’s highly amusing. For years I thought the biggest problem was us “mixies” not being allowed to check off two or more races. Now that I’m married though, I guess people just assume I’ve adopted my husband’s identity.

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