Sullivan & Nicolaides Pathology - receipt delay

I recently had a blood test for cancer, that had to be paid for before blood was taken. The nurse at the blood collection centre Sullivan & Nicolaides, rang my credit card details into the main office and received verification of payment, gave me a hand written collection Centre Receipt. It was not sufficient for my claim to my Private Health Insurer, so I rang the company and was told that, " A receipt will be issued after the test is completed and may take up to 7 days to be sent by email." I told the phone consultant, that, "I have to pay my surgeon before he will operate on me, so why after I had paid for a blood test was such a delay and was told, "our system does not operate in that way.". I wonder if the software system of Sullivan & Nicolaides could be upgraded to send a receipt at time of payment? maybe I expect too much in this great tech age.

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Hi @Juno, welcome to the community.

Are you saying the receipt is issued 7 days later with the blood test results?

I wonder if they don’t this issue receipt until the blood testing is completed as the test could be cancelled up until the time it is done…several days later. It could cause problems if one claims a benefit and then the test is cancelled whereby a valid claim couldn’t be made.

Last time I had surgery while I had no out of pocket for the surgeon, tax invoices were issued by the anaesthetist at the end of the month of the surgery and hospital at discharge. I had to pay the hospital the daily ‘excess’ rate on arrival…the anaesthetist was shortly after receipt of the invoice.

It might be a common practice in the medical industry only to issue claimable receipts/Tax Invoices after services are completed rather than on payment.

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Hi phb, your points about hospital charges of anaesthetist is after the event, however you did pay out of pocket expenses before you had surgery and would have been given a receipt at the time you entered hospital. This is a blood collection centre not associated with any hospital, so if I paid before the blood was taken and I would expect that once the blood was taken from my arm into a tube, the medical company Sullivan & Nicolaides (In Australia) would complete the test. So if the tube of blood was lost or test not completed, I still have paid for it and if the service is not completed then the cost should be refunded, as it is right of a consumer to have a refund for any service not rendered. The doctor now has the test results but I am still waiting for the receipt.
I think that previously blood test were provided and accounts sent afterward but people did not pay their accounts, so the company now charges the fees before the test is completed to ensure they do not have use debt collectors to recover their cost. BUT their software should be ungraded to deliver a receipt upon payment of money.

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From what I recall I got an receipt, but more like a credit card one than a full hospital one. The final tax invoice at discharge included some meds given for use at home…which I was annoyed about as these weren’t claimable. The final payment was that outstanding amount on the discharge tax invoice.

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I have used Sullivan Nicholaides pathology for some time. Based on many discussions with the nurses, I believe that they have antiquated or inflexible IT systems.

I had billing issues which required me to contact the head office a number of times before it was sorted. So it doesn’t surprise me that in some circumstances it could take over a week before you receive a receipt through the post. With the way Australia Post is working at the moment with deliveries only twice a week, it could take a week for the mail to travel within a city.

While I agree that it would be good for their administrative processes to be modernised, I prefer that a greater priority be given to the pathology software working efficiently and effectively.

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You can use the pathology request at any pathology lab eg QML, Mater and so on. It doesn’t need to be used at the labs on the request. Same for XRay and other similar tests as well, eg if request form is for Exact Radiology it can be used at any other provider.

While this won’t fix your current problem it may allow you to choose another who suits you better if ever needed in the future.

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At the doctors in our local shopping centre, there is a sign in the window for pathology services with the statement 'We accept all referrals".

It reminded me of a BP servo near the CBD wit a sign outside “We accept all competitors’ fuel dockets”.

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With tax invoices, the Australia Tax Office indicates that one should be issued within 28 days of a request being made…

While not ideal for claiming back benefits from Medicare/private health insurance, it appears that it being issued 7 days later is reasonable. This will mean any benefit potentially is paid 7 day later than it would have been if it was issued on payment which may be difficult to manage if one is on a tight budget.

SN also bulk bill some tests. In the past we have found that the referring doctor has to ask SN for bulk billing, rather than SN automatically doing it. This might have changed in recent years. It may be asking SN/doctor if your test can be bulk billed in the future to save you any out of pocket expenses.

After thinking more, often online or phone purchases, tax invoices are included with the send goods rather than emailed immediately on purchase. Some tax invoices issued on purchase. Sometimes order confirmations are issued on purchase… with the tax invoice included in product or emailed later. The later issuing of tax invoices seems similar model to that SN uses.

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I am not sure if it applies to pathology, but for X-rays and ultrasounds we discovered not all GPs have ‘agreements’ with every lab, just like not all surgeons can work at every/any hospital.

The family recently needed both and it would be bulk billed at one, yet another location of the same company would have charged $310.

Over the years I always ‘just went’ to ‘the one’ because it was convenient for me. My partner preferred a different location that was more convenient for her and there was always a charge of some sort. We did not understand until the aforementioned lab staff explained it, and no GP ever mentioned it.

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I usually get tax invoices with my online order confirmation email, and usually a paper copy with the goods. I ordered online last night and the email confirmation subject line is

Here’s the tax invoice from your recent order #xxxxxxxxx

It thus seems to be done either way.

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There have been changes to the Health Insurance Act (https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/reqs-path-di-services)

"The key changes:

  • increase patient choice by removing restrictions on the selection of pathology and diagnostic imaging providers (my bolding)
  • prohibit inappropriate commercial relationships between requesters and providers of pathology and diagnostic imaging services
  • discourage the delivery of pathology or diagnostic imaging services as a result of inducement or threat
  • require that a branded pathology or diagnostic imaging request form is available for use by requesting practitioners and includes a ‘patient advisory statement’."

The wording of the Advisory statement

" Wording options for branded pathology or diagnostic imaging request forms

Request forms for diagnostic imaging services must include a statement that informs the patient that they may obtain the services from a provider of their choice and are not restricted to the provider named on the request form’"

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Which does not contradict the patient will be bulk billed at some locations, and pay at others, apparently depending on GP registrations.

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Hi grahroll, your information about changes to the Health Insurance Act are well timed in this conversation. I want to say that I went to S&N as they were closest pathology to where I live in the country area. When the doctor wrote out the tests for blood and other cancer tests (CT) she told me that I can go to any provider with these referrals, so I did know that S&N was not the only one. This one test was for a particular antigen in the blood, was not covered under Medicare rules but I have several other antigen tests and iron levels etc. that are subsidized by Medicare and was bulk-billed for them. I will phone other providers to find out if their software system can deliver a receipt upon payment or soon after to patients email.

Regarding the changes to the Health Insurance Act:
at present we can go to any provider, so I am not sure what phrase one really implies,
and yes there may be commercial services between providers and requesters,
and there are probably people in Australia now who would go to a provider through money/inducement but that will be hard to prove,
and the final phrase is useful to be in writing as some doctors may not tell clients that they can go to anyone of the providers.

However, the other changes to pathology that are in the fine print are that greater restrictions and regulation come into force whereby, the expensive pathology tests (MRI, CT, bone density) will be limited to less tests per year, so Govt will save taxpayers money! with reduced profit made by pathology businesses BUT it will be to the detriment of the consumer.

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Went for blood tests, provided the correct paperwork, signed the Medicare forms, had the blood drawn (into several tubes).
About a week later I get a phone call from the pathology company telling me that I need to go and have some more blood taken because they had incorrectly stored one of the tubes (contrary to the directions & colour coding on it). So I went to the same collection centre and did had bllood drawn again. And had to put them straight when they wanted to charge me for it - their excuse was that I was having a second incidence of the same test in less than a month and therefore the second test was not covered by Medicare!
Yes it was Sullivan & Nicolaides.

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Unbelievable.

I just realised you went to a collection centre rather than one of their pathology clinics. Our doctor’s practice in Brisbane was also collection centre which was only manned by a nurse at particular times. This nurse only took samples (blood, urine, breath etc) and collected relevant referral paperwork. Samples were then couriered (suspect in SN collection cars one sometimes sees on the road) to the pathology clinics for testing.

If you had gone to a collection centre, it is possible they are any designed to take samples and associated payments and not the full services offered by SN. It could be the nurse taking samples doesn’t have necessary training nor delegations within SN to issue tax invoices…the collection centre may not have facilities (computers, printers, access to SN network etc, to issue official SN invoices. It appears these collection centres are designed for convenience to the patient, by not having to travel some distance to a clinic. Convenience may come at a cost…not able to do more than some basic services.

It may be worth contacting SN to see if you go to a pathology clinic, if they issue tax invoices on the spot. If they do, this may the way to get it quickly, albeit with potentially more inconvenience.

Every one makes mistakes. It is how they handle mistakes and their responses which can make a business great. No different to any businesses providing consumer products or services.

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Yes, an individual, can err.
It’s common to measure any enterprise or business by how it responds.
Some mistakes are more notable than others?

In respect of the medical profession, we usually pay regardless of the reliability of the first diagnosis, or failed treatment. Although first hand, I’ve usually received a polite explanation and apology for the uncertainties in medical science.

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HI vombatis, This is unbelievable to charge for a medical person not taking blood correctly in the first place. Did you pay for their second attempt? you put them straight!!! it is interesting that a second test in the same month with the same code is not covered by Medicare…this is fair enough as Medicare did not make a mistake. How do we stand up and know what to do, if you are elderly and very unwell, you just do as they say.

BTW I am still waiting for my receipt, acknowledging the payment made by me, from the S&N system

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Hi phb, I think you have analyzed this receipt problem exactly. Yes I do go to a small collection centre in the small country town, where there is only a nurse and she has no way of providing a full receipt. The pathology clinics may provide a receipt at time of payment but I would have to drive 1.5 hours to a big clinic. So I will be patient as long distance driving is worse than waiting for a receipt…the lesser of two evils!!!

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Pleased that we might have worked out what was going on. I agree that waiting a week may be far better than driving a long way to get an instantaneous receipt.

I was also thinking that the nurse at the collection centre, while be highly experienced in taking samples, may not be an direct employee of SN. The nurse could be a contractor or agent (work in the a medical centre and do this as part of their usual job). If this is the case, SN might not give access to their computerised payment system for obvious reasons - restricting access to non-employees is common across other businesses.

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