Is there someone who’s happy with the way our health care system works? It sure as hell doesn’t work for me.
I sign in at the front desk when I arrive for my doctors appointment. I notice as I sign in that there are 3 or 4 of us that share the same appointment time. I’m not sure why they schedule their appointments this way. The doctor can’t see 3 or 4 patients at once, so it seems foolish and counterproductive, but for some reason they instruct their staff to schedule their time this way. So I wait as patiently as I can for my turn. I feel much the same way that I do at the supermarket deli, waiting for them to call my number.
As I sit there waiting, I fondly recall a time when I would call my doctor’s office and get an appointment for the same day (or the next day, if he was really busy). At the scheduled time, I would arrive and check in at the front desk. I did not sign a sheet; I simply pressed the buzzer and the receptionist would slide the glass partition and greet me. I would then take a seat in the waiting room and read a magazine while I waited for the doctor. There would be perhaps 1 or 2 other patients waiting at the same time.
The nurse would call me after 10-15 minutes, and I would follow her as we exchanged pleasantries. When the doctor made his appearance, I would explain the reason for my visit. He would then examine/treat/advise me, and write a prescription if necessary. If lab work was needed, he would ask his nurse to draw some blood before I left. I felt like they really cared about me. I would leave knowing that if I had questions or concerns, I could call and either talk to the nurse or ask for the doctor to call me back. I would stop on the way out to pay my bill, which was a reasonable, manageable amount. On some occasions, I simply paid $25 for my office visit and we were done.
Today, I am a number. I no longer have a relationship with my doctor, and I must often wait weeks to get an appointment, even if I’m sick. There is no respect for doctor-patient confidentiality. There is an assumption that it extends to all office personnel. When I call to make the appointment, I must explain in detail the nature of the reason for my visit. If I’m not explicit or descriptive enough, the appointment-setter will demand more information until at last, they are satisfied and I am given an appointment time. I am told to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
When I arrive at the office, any illusion of privacy is gone. I sign in on a log sheet that is in full view. I can see the names of the other patients, and they can see mine. The receptionist expects me to discuss the reason for my appointment within earshot of everyone in the waiting room and becomes impatient if I demur. She then asks for my insurance card and hands me a clipboard with 3 or 4 sheets to fill out. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been there; they always need it to be “updated.” They don’t know me from a hole in the wall. After they’ve copied my insurance card and reviewed my updated forms, I am told to take a seat in the packed waiting room to await my turn. I will wait somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour before my name is called again. Once summoned to the inner sanctum, I will follow the person who called me. I have no idea who this person is; I have never seen her before and she doesn’t take the time to introduce herself. She will weigh me, take my blood pressure, and lead me to an examination room, where she tells me to remove all my garments and don a paper robe. She asks for more information about the reason for my visit. I’m not sure why she needs to know the details, because she disappears and I won’t see her for the remainder of my visit. Once the door closes, I follow her instructions and wait again. If I’m lucky, I will get 15 minutes of the doctor’s time. If lab work is needed, I am given a prescription and referred to another facility to have my blood drawn. (This is another nightmare in and of itself.)
When the visit is over, I dress and go to the checkout desk, where I pay what I owe and pick up a prescription if the doctor has written one. My copay is about what I used to pay for the office visit. My insurance company will kick in another $100 or so depending on the reason for my visit.
I hope all my questions have been asked and answered, because I don’t want to go through this again. I know that if I need to see the doctor for another 15 minutes, I have to go to the back of the line and take another number.
How could things have changed so much? Why has the practice of medicine become so impersonal?
I don’t mind being a number to the guy that sells me sliced turkey and cheese. I want more from my doctor and his staff.
The search for a caring health care provider continues.