21 Oct 2013, 23:07

Kaiser Permanente Administrators barged into my exam room


Kaiser Permanente Administrators barged into my exam room

Executive Summary

I had three hospital administrators barge in on me in an exam room the other day. I feel that this was inappropriate, and that the situation could have been handled in a more professional manner.

I had submitted the following as a complaint to Kaiser, which they claim they respond to within two business days. That was two weeks ago. I was not going to publish this if they had responded even within two weeks. Below is the complaint that I had submitted, as it was written a couple weeks ago.

Actual Complaint Filed

Yesterday, I visited the Kaiser Permanente facility on Homestead and Lawrence in Santa Clara, CA for a doctor’s appointment. I was wearing Google Glass, as I always do, and when I checked in, the receptionist asked me about Glass, and informed me that I was not allowed to take pictures, or record video while in the hospital. I said of course, that’s not something that I would do anyway. Then, I sat down in a chair and was called in about 15 minutes later. I had my basic measurements taken, and was escorted into the exam room, where some information was entered, and I was asked to take off my shirt, and put on a hospital gown.

After waiting a bit for the doctor, I heard a knock on the door, and then three hospital administrators entered. (I don’t remember who they were, or what their titles were, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard for you to figure out.) They were polite, but looked uncomfortable, and I couldn’t really figure out why they were there at first. I was not pleased that they were paying me a visit in my exam room in the first place, and immediately started to wonder if this was typical procedure, for hospital administrators to enter patient exam rooms when they are half-dressed to come in for a chat? Then they started asking me about Glass, and I understood why they were there.

That conversation was basically one of the administrators explained that there was a privacy policy at Kaiser, that said that nobody’s allowed to take any photos or videos while there. She asked if the receptionist had explained this to me, and I said that he had mentioned something along those lines. She then asked if they could hold my device until I was done. I declined, and asked if they routinely confiscate patient’s smart phones when they walk in the door, and I noted that she had an iPhone, with a camera on it. I explained that you don’t do that, because you assume that people have some common sense about these sorts of things, that they won’t go around snapping photos in a hospital. I also explained that the current crop of Glass Explorers are all quite sensitive to this issue as well, since we are all very aware of people’s concerns about the device. She seemed to agree, and they left.

I’m not upset about the conversation. It’s totally reasonable for people to raise concerns about new technology. However, I do have a couple of things that I am upset about. First, it seemed inappropriate for the administrators to barge in on me in the exam room when I was half dressed. It made me feel vulnerable and intimidated by your staff. Second, I don’t like it when companies (that I give thousands of dollars to annually) treat me like a potential criminal instead of a paying customer who they care about. I especially don’t like it when there seems to be a basic distrust of me, in that situation, when I am entrusting your organization with my life.

Regarding the first issue, I can see at least two better ways of handling the situation. First, they could have phoned the desk, and had me wait outside until the admins could come down and meet me in the waiting area. This would have been fairly easy to do, how hard is it to make a phone call? Second, they could have waited until my exam was over, and had a nurse come in and inform me that I would need to speak to them on my way out.

I don’t really have a good fix for the second issue, I have big problems with companies that treat their customers like criminals, especially when they attempt to violate those customer’s rights (4th amendment to the Constitution, unreasonable search and seizure). Again, a conversation is fine, asking me to remove Glass while in the hospital would have been reasonable as well (which I’ll be doing from now on anyways). Attempting to confiscate my property using intimidation is not OK.

What I want

I would like an apology.

I would also like to know if it is hospital policy for administrators to enter patients’ exam rooms for things like this, or whether you try to address these sorts of things in a way that doesn’t put your patients in a situation where they’re feeling vulnerable and intimidated by your staff?

As far as Google Glass goes, this is something that your organization is going to need to figure out. This incident occurred in Silicon Valley, where you will start seeing more and more people coming in the doors with wearable devices, some less obvious than Glass. You will also likely have doctors in the near future wearing Glass. You may even issue Glass to your staff, since some of the most interesting Glassware being written about are for medical applications. People are doing truly amazing things in that space, and I’m sure you won’t want to be missing out on that.


Two things. First, I received a letter from Kaiser stating that they would be sending me a letter within 30 days on the issue.

Second, after getting some opinions, and talking to people, I realize that this was probably a situation where I could have shown some more tact while walking into the hospital. I probably should have removed Glass prior to walking in, regardless of what was actually required or enforceable. I do remove Glass whenever I go into a hospital now, again, because it’s the tactful thing to do. I still think that the situation was handled poorly by the administrators, and that they could have found a better way to communicate with me than barging in on me in the exam room.

Additionally, it’s been interesting reading different people’s opinions on Glass in this situation. Some people are railing against me, saying that this is an obvious privacy violation on my part. Others seem to think it’s more similar to a smartphone, and that I shouldn’t have been bothered. I think I’ll hold onto this one as a conversation starter.

Update 2

I had failed to include this detail previously, but when I was called out of the patient area, I removed Glass, and put it in my shirt (just like I do when I use a public restroom). When I was in the area where patients are being interacted with, Glass was not on my head, and the camera was not exposed. When the admins came, Glass was sitting with the rest of my belongings, not on my head.

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