The Queue and Beyond
Most of my work involves standing in meandering hospital lines.
Take, for example, a patient who requires a CT scan. At a top hospital, the patient would typically stand in line for two hours just to get an appointment. Once they’ve secured a spot, they have to queue for about another hour outside the CT scan room. It’s all very hectic.
Though many hospitals now have intelligent terminals that eliminate the need to queue for registration, the elderly have to swipe their medical insurance cards instead of using mobile payment, which requires in-person assistance. It means the lines are still very long at the medical insurance window in every hospital.
That's where I come in.
After the doctor asks an elderly patient to get tests done, I queue for them to help them pay using medical insurance. But standing in line isn’t as simple as it seems.
The advantage of hospital escorts is that we use our professional knowledge to make sure patients visit the specialists they need to see as soon as possible. This way, we prevent their condition from worsening and save them from labyrinthine corridors and unnecessary detours.
However, every hospital is different, and when I first started, it took some time to get used to the grind.
Often, I arrived early in the morning to secure a spot in line for my client, but the hospital was so crowded that sometimes it took until noon to get their test results back after seeing the doctor.
After such experiences, I started preparing in advance. I learned the layout of each hospital, identifying the right places for blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and ECGs, and also made note of the hospital’s specialty.
This on-the-job training helped me develop professional standards for hospital escorts, gauging how much earlier a patient must arrive, learning how to communicate with clients, and knowing what clients should be reminded of before their tests.
Some decisions are necessary in advance — for instance, clients can’t eat for a certain number of hours before having blood drawn.
One client from Shaanxi had consulted many doctors in his hometown about his chronic stomach aches to no avail. On hearing of a specialist at a hospital in Xi’an, he traveled here by train with his wife. But the high demand for specialists meant that he never managed to get a reservation.
That’s when he learned of our service. When he called us, I told him: “Come tomorrow and I’ll get you a consultation with a regular doctor who’ll have you do some tests. In the meantime, I’ll help you get an appointment seven days later with the specialist. Once you have your test results, I'll take you to see the specialist too.”
Because blood tests require prior fasting, I arranged for him to have blood drawn the following morning as well as an ultrasonography later that afternoon. Before the sonography, he couldn’t pass urine, so as long as he only drank water and ate a decent meal at noon, he could finish the test swiftly.
For the gastroscopy, however, he needed cathartics, so I booked the test for the next day.
The results of CT and gastroscopy were available three days later, so I was able to retrieve them all on the fifth day. I gave the client the sixth day off to rest, and on the seventh day, brought all his test results to the specialist.
The doctor only prescribed one course of medicine for him. I told him that he wouldn't have to travel all the way from northern Shaanxi for his next course of medication — he could simply pay me an errand fee of 49 yuan and I would send it to him by mail.
On returning to Shaanxi, the client told me about an earlier experience of desperately trying to get an appointment. He sought out a scalper who demanded 500 yuan to get him registered. Reluctant to spend that much money, he had no other option but to return home and ask a friend’s child to help him register online. That didn’t work either.
He said I truly solved his problem and that he wanted to express his gratitude by sending me a package of jujubes, a local specialty of his hometown.