sacred heart

SPOKANE, Wash. – A local woman said she was stressed to the max after Sacred Heart hospital mixed up her name with the name of a real patient.

The bizarre story began August 9 when her daughter's phone rang.

“This lady was calling to let her know I was hospitalized,” she said. “[My daughter] was just like… no, my mom is here with me right now.”

But the family said staff at Providence Sacred Heart were telling her, that wasn't the case, her mother had been admitted with a critical injury.

“This was a huge deal,” she said. “I was so worried for this person [the actual patient].”

Both the woman and her daughter claim they told hospital staff that night that there was a mix-up. They told them they didn’t know who was in the hospital, or why they were being treated under the wrong name. She said she was assured the situation had been flagged and would be resolved.

“They just said they would get it corrected,” she said. “If they had called my son, he doesn’t live with me, he would have been down there at Sacred Heart. It would have been really bad for my family.”

The woman had once been a patient at a Sacred Heart provider, and in the following days, she checked her MyChart to ensure the error was fixed.

"The information was still in my online chart, I know it will take awhile to correct it, but additional things had been put in too,” she said.

Then, bills were starting to pile up. The woman was sent a notice from Sacred Heart showing she had a balance with them for nearly $3,000. The paperwork was sent to her eight days after the August 9 date of service. She said August 9th is also when she and her daughter notified them that they made a mistake.

The woman said the bills were only part of her worries.

“My fear was, what if she passes away and I'm declared dead,” she said.

She said that the hospital also tried billing an old insurance, which didn't go through, and that they contacted her to try to help her obtain insurance.

“That was my saving grace, that I don't have that insurance anymore, otherwise these bills would have gone through,” she said.

She continued working the phones, and was told the actual patient, a stranger to her, had pulled through. It was the only layer of this that gave her relief.

“I wish Sacred Heart would have picked up the ball…I feel like they should have taken the ball and covered all the steps,” she said.

In addition to dealing with the bills and correcting her medical chart and history, the woman just wanted to share her story in hopes it could prevent someone else from the same stressful ordeal.

“I felt you would help so this won't happen again,” she said. “And I thought, that's why I have to do this.”

She wanted answers from Sacred Heart. They provided the following statement to KHQ:

“Although uncommon, clerical errors with similar patient names do occur. We sincerely apologize for the error, which we are in the process of correcting. When this happens, we put our process into action to correct the situation as quickly as possible. We cannot comment on private medical information, but we can share that when a complaint is brought to our attention, it is our protocol to begin an investigation and a timeline for resolution is shared with the person making the complaint. While we recognize the inconvenience this has caused, we know that it is nothing compared to what the actual patient is facing.”

It's been a stressful six-plus weeks for the woman who found herself in the middle of this nightmare mix-up, not just for the unnecessary chaos, but her heartfelt concern for a stranger.

“I wish I could reach out but that's not appropriate,” she said. “All the HIPPA violations.”

KHQ has been notified the bills in this situation have been corrected. As far as an official resolution though, the woman says she was told on September 8th that a formal review and investigation was underway and that that process could take up to four weeks.

On another note, we asked if any changes will be made to ensure this doesn’t happen to somebody else. Sacred Heart told us they do have procedures in place and this is a ‘rare occurrence.’