Pathology wait times in veterinary medicine (FedEx only goes so fast)
Sick pet…surgery…biopsy…what’s next? How long does it take for the faraway pathologist to render a diagnosis?
Some clients call every day—twice, even—hoping to catch the fax as it hits my email inbox.
They’re justifiably on edge, wondering if that scary oral sore is a squamous cell carcinoma, the toe mass a melanoma, the skin mass a grade III mast cell tumor…or something they can finally big a big sigh of relief over.
Three to five business days I tell them. Try to put it out of your mind until then, I urge. Easier said than done, I know.
But last week’s client was not so easily mollified. Angry at what she perceived to be a delay (four and a half days since the biopsy, four days since FedEx took it away to a lab in Oregon), she berated the receptionists mercilessly for our archaic snail’s pace in a 24/7 world.
Hmmm… I couldn’t help but wonder whether this owner had ever undergone any medical treatment for herself.
Lump in breast? Wait two weeks sometimes—up to nine weeks in places with public medicine (Canada, Britain).
Abnormal pap? Took my cervical biopsy three weeks for a final verdict.
Your pet’s tests? Three to five business days, on average. Sometimes within hours if we’ve got an in with a lab and you pay for a stat.
Yes, it’s true that some human hospitals have in-house pathologists to read intra-op slides for surgical procedures, but this isn’t the norm for most people tumors. And sometimes you’ve got to wait months to get scheduled for the procedure in the first place, whereas pets get the benefits of immediate care (if you can afford it, that is).
By most human standards vets are lightning quick—fee-for-service care has its benefits. But you can’t tell a stressed client that. Not while Fluffy languishes with a sore mouth at home…not while the bone under those stitches aches after a punch biopsy.
I know it’s hard…but we’re doing the best we can…really, we are.