After 7 weeks of Dr. Alvarez and Rebecca [Dr. Alvarez's nurse] and two missed opportunities for cycles, I decided to switch to Dr. Kaplan in the same practice...I never proceeded with a cycle with Dr. Alvarez because the simple process of ordering prescriptions was never able to be completed...The whole experience made me feel like an inconvenience to them, not like a patient....
Now that I've switched to Dr. Kaplan [at Fertility Centers of Illinois], I find that communication is excellent, appointments occur on time and are very efficient, things are easy to schedule, and they make everything easy to understand...After 7 weeks of Dr. Alvarez and Rebecca and two missed opportunities for cycles, I decided to switch to Dr. Kaplan in the same practice. His nurses got me completely squared away within 36 hours of my first appointment with him, and I started my cycle just a week later.
How was your experience with Juan Alvarez at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
Things with Dr. Alvarez started out well. We had an initial consult during which he was empathetic, patient, and detailed in explaining what next steps would be given that my diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve probably came as a shock at my age. We then ordered some testing and he walked me through the results and my options in a follow up conversation in a thoughtful and sensible way, making sure I had no questions.
That's where the good experience ended. Separately, in the nursing section, I provide detail on what happened over the next five weeks with his nurse. Working with her for over a month, I couldn't get the requisite attention from her to even successfully order the prescriptions necessary to accomplish the egg retrieval, and missed two opportunities for egg freezing cycles in the process.
At this point, I decided to loop in Dr. Alvarez. In a telehealth appointment, I explained to him everything that had happened with Rebecca, his nurse, and told him it had been 5 weeks just trying to get medications ordered and I was losing faith in their ability to oversee a complicated and time sensitive process. He had emphasized that time was of the essence for me to do this freezing procedure and so I asked for his help in giving Rebecca more supervision and making sure we were able to proceed. Although I made it clear that I felt my experience with her went beyond the typical complicated insurance dance of fertility treatment, which I was familiar with and knew what to expect, he did not seem willing to accept that Rebecca had done anything wrong. He excused Rebecca's inattention to detail and lack of responsiveness by explaining that they have many patients to balance and that insurance can be complicated so hiccups are to be expected. He explained Rebecca's perspective to me, which was that everything had been lined up and ready to go for weeks and she didn't know why I was saying that there was a problem. I encouraged him to look at the messages we had traded back and forth, which he has access to, as well as the record of the prescriptions she'd called in for me and what she hadn't called in, to see that her version of events was clearly not supported by the facts. He continued to resist any implication that the delays in my treatment were somehow Rebecca's or his fault, or that any mistakes had been made so far, although he did admit that he was concerned that at one point she had lied to me about having done a task I asked her to do, which she had not done. I began to feel like his priority was in protecting himself and Rebecca, not providing quality care to me particularly in light of the time sensitive nature of my diagnosis.
During this appointment I also asked him a medical question about what could have caused my diagnosis. He at first gave me a very confident answer, however, moments later, he interrupted my response to that answer and said that he was just now looking at some medical articles online that indicated that actually maybe the answer was more nuanced than what he'd said moments before. I was a bit unnerved that he would answer so confidently if he wanted to do some research, instead of simply saying that he needed to look into it and get back to me.
My problems with Rebecca continued for another two weeks after I looped in Dr. Alvarez, and I describe those further details below in the nurse section. If Dr. Alvarez did discuss with her and intervene, it did not have any obvious impact on Rebecca's ability to run things to ground effectively, and he never followed up with me to see if we were ready for a cycle or if things had improved.
After 7 weeks of Dr. Alvarez and Rebecca and two missed opportunities for cycles, I decided to switch to Dr. Kaplan in the same practice. His nurses got me completely squared away within 36 hours of my first appointment with him, and I started my cycle just a week later. I only mention that to underscore the point that what I experienced with Dr. Alvarez and Rebecca was truly not typical and went beyond the normal insurance dance with infertility treatment. The whole experience made me feel like an inconvenience to them, not like a patient.
What's one piece of advice would you give a prospective patient of Juan Alvarez at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
Go to Dr. Kaplan instead.
During treatment, were you treated like a number or a human with Juan Alvarez at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
See further comments below.
Describe the protocols Juan Alvarez used in your cycles at Fertility Centers of Illinois and their degree of success.
I never proceeded with a cycle with Dr. Alvarez because the simple process of ordering prescriptions was never able to be completed.
Describe your experience with your nurse at Fertility Centers of Illinois. (Assigned nurse: Rebecca)
After my initial consult and blood work with Dr. Alvarez,
I was handed over to his nurse, Rebecca, who was to submit prior authorizations to my insurance and get prescriptions ordered. First, she told me that my insurance company needed me to call them to provide my insurance card information to them. When I called the insurance company, they had no idea what I was talking about or why she had told me to do that. Then, she failed to submit a prior authorization for one of my medications after being reminded twice to do it, and when she finally submitted it, she accidentally submitted two, one of which was incorrect, and asked me to call my insurance and correct it, which they wouldn't accept since such an order has to come from a medical professional. When two of my prior authorizations were denied, I asked her to submit the appeal paperwork that the insurance company was requesting as the insurance agents explained that I did meet the qualifications for coverage but had to submit some extra paperwork explaining the grounds for which I qualified for coverage. She told me she submitted it and I should hear back from my insurance company soon. 10 days later I learned that she had not submitted it at all when I called my insurance company to request a status update.
Meanwhile, I'd had a blood test and other testing done a month prior that I hadn't gotten results for. I asked her to release them to me, and she did, with no interpretation whatsoever, no reference ranges for normal values, etc.
At that point, it had been five weeks of going back and forth with Rebecca and we still didn't have my prescription situation ironed out with either the pharmacy or my insurance company. I looped in Dr. Alvarez at that stage as noted above. I then coordinated with my insurance company on my own and sent Rebecca extremely detailed instructions on what to send in respect of my appeals and where and how to send it in (fax). She sent me a message the next day saying that the insurance company wouldn't accept the appeal over the phone so she didn't know what to do, which was frustrating since I had done all the legwork and provided her with instructions to make the process as easy as possible on her, and had just told her as part of those instructions that they needed it by fax. A week later, she told me she successfully submitted the appeals. I asked her to send me a copy of what she sent in. When she sent it to me, it was completely non-compliant with what my insurance company required and did not reflect any of the instructions I had given her in terms of what should be included in the letter. Further, I called my insurance company two days later to find out how to proceed, and they said she had never even sent it, although she said she had. This was now the second time she had told me she filed something that she didn't actually file. I redrafted the letter for her, asked her to have Dr. Alvarez sign it, she said she would ask him. She then stopped responding to my messages altogether, and I never heard from her or Dr. Alvarez again. At this point, it had been 7 weeks of this, and as noted above, I switched to Dr. Kaplan and had a great experience.
Describe your experience with Fertility Centers of Illinois.
This Clinic is fantastic. Now that I've switched to Dr. Kaplan, I find that communication is excellent, appointments occur on time and are very efficient, things are easy to schedule, and they make everything easy to understand.
What specific things went wrong at Fertility Centers of Illinois?
- Failed to call in prescriptions to pharmacy
- Lost paperwork
- Failed to call with results
- Failed to convey critical information
Describe the specific things that went wrong at Fertility Centers of Illinois.
See above - all of my issues were due to Rebecca, Dr. Alvarez's nurse, and Dr. Alvarez. Dr. Kaplan and his nurses, and everyone else at FCI, have been absolutely delightful to work with.