Thursday, June 09, 2011

Health Care. Or Health We-Don't-Care. Whatever.

It seems as if it's the season for people to have insane problems with their medical care. Amanda discussed her problem with lengthy waits in the doctor's office, as did Andrea, while Raquel has an amazing horror story that is one of the best excuses for a lawsuit I think I've ever read.

Here's my story ...

Some years ago, I had my periodic physical exam done at the hospital in Maryland. The exam was a two-part process: you went in once for all the poking, prodding, cup-peeing, blood-drawing, fanny-probing, etc, etc; then you got a second appointment about a week later, at which the doctor would sit down with you, gravely review all the test and exam results, and tell you how much longer you had to live.

Okay so far.

Those of you who live in the DC metro area will understand that traveling between Northern Virginia (where I live) and the location of Andrews AFB in Maryland (where my appointment was scheduled) is no simple task ... it's getting easier with the reconstruction of the infamous Woodrow Wilson bridge, but it's still a bit of a long drive in generally heavy traffic, not to be done on a whim.

I dutifully drove out there for the first appointment, and spent the better part of a day getting all the basic work done. At the end of all that, the receptionist made an appointment for me to see Doctor X about 10 days later to get the results.


On the appointed day, I fought the traffic across the Wilson Bridge and arrived at the Andrews AFB hospital in good time for my appointment. I checked in with the receptionist and waited about 10 minutes, until I was called and led to a little exam room where, I was told, the doctor would see me shortly. The receptionist put my records into the little bin on the door and pulled it closed.

Fast forward about 45 minutes.

No doctor had yet appeared, and I was starting to get a bit concerned. I let myself out of the exam room and went back out to the receptionist's desk, where a different person was now sitting. I explained who I was, and where and how long I'd been waiting for Doctor X, and asked how much longer I might have to wait.

Rustle of papers as the new receptionist checks the schedule.

Embarrassed looks.

Receptionist: "Ummm ... It doesn't look like Doctor X is in the office today."

Me: "?!!!!!"

Receptionist: "I can make you a new appointment."

Me: "???!!!!!"

One week later ...

I finally saw the doctor, after waiting only about 20 minutes. There was never an explanation of why I was put in a room to wait for him a week earlier, when he wasn't even in the hospital that day. I never received an apology, or a reply to the letter of complaint I wrote.

So, what is it with doctors and their schedules, anyhow? I understand that a schedule might get out of whack if the doctor encounters a particularly difficult case, or if he/she is called away for an emergency. But when was the last time you encountered an endless wait, long after your appointment time, and had someone come to you and explain the reason for the delay? Chances are, the answer is "never."

Because, after all, the doctor is a highly-trained and greatly-in-demand professional whose time is much more important than yours.

If we're going to reform health care, quality, cost, and basic availability need to be the primary considerations. But once those are taken care of, it would be nice just to know if the doctor will actually see you once you get to the office.

Have a good day. Stay healthy. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

ARGH..speaking of Doctors...I have to take both parents to the cardiologist today. What fun!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

oh the stories I could share!!
In fact I may make that a post.
Glad you are fine though.

Mike said...

You should have gotten a coupon for a free visit.

Amanda said...

Why can't these people apologize?? Too bad patients can't go on strikes for better treatment.