Have You Got A Minute?

I ask, because apparently, these days, doctors and dentists do not. The way that medical care is delivered these days, from a patient’s perspective has either changed dramatically, or I have exceedingly bad luck in selecting caregivers to see me through the golden years. My recent experiences have led me to the inescapable conclusion that health care professionals are on the clock, leaving little time to know their patients beyond their name and the ailment or issue that has led you to them. If your current doctor or dentist knows something about you, don’t let them go as they are a rarity today. I am an observer, having made a good living through observing and addressing human behavior. The following musings reflect my observations of the changing landscape in healthcare.

We have relocated to Springfield, Mo. from the Lake of the Ozarks area. Springfield was our favorite stop during my years with the Patrol, a town just big enough but not too big. I would describe us as urbanites with a flair for the country. I enjoyed a long association with a terrific primary care physician in Jefferson City, Missouri, easily accessible from the Lake Ozark area. I had also established a great relationship with a dentist in the Lake Ozark area. Both of these providers knew me as a friend as well as patient and trips to their offices were something I looked forward to, assuming the trip was not as a result of something painful, needing immediate resolution. Reluctantly, I abandoned both of these practitioners and selected new doctors in the Springfield area. Springfield is big enough that making a selection should not be that difficult.

I selected a physician that is currently in our insurance network. He is a PCP, with just the right amount of experience, located within a large office complex close to where we live. My first experience with him was in the form of an annual physical, which was conducted in a matter of 15 minutes, start to finish, with most of this time spent with him typing away on a computer keyboard. I have a rebuilt heart which, as far as I know, functions perfectly, but that does require some degree of attention. This doc walks into and out of the exam room without a stethoscope and has no idea what is going on with my pump beyond the notes that I have provided him before the visit. He checked my current meds and if I asked about an issue (arthritis) he immediately referred me to a specialist, based only upon my raising the issue. I suspect this doctor is a very smart practitioner, but makes little eye contact and obviously needed to move on to the next patient in an expeditious manner. He stands in stark contrast to the doctor in Jefferson City who knew me very well, was always courteous and conversational, as well as genuinely interested in my state of health. Perhaps the attention from my Jefferson City doctor was the result of his considerable investment of professional expertise in my health over the years.

My first visit to my new dentist involved an initial exam and time with his hygienist for the normal 6 month cleaning. It was as expected, with the exception of his noting a very small cavity and a missing filling on top of a crown (covering an implant) that needed attention in a subsequent visit. The second visit was an exercise in rapid fire dentistry. The hygienist was tapped to make the numbing injections, one on each side of my mouth, one upper and one lower. She was very good with the needle, and I felt nothing. The single injection on the upper resulted in a very slight numbing, and when the drill touched the tooth, I immediately knew that sufficient numbing had not occurred. Three injections later, by the dentist, and the tooth was asleep and the filling placed. The dentist manned the drill leaving the rest of the work to his assistants. He then came in and smoothed the filling and I was out of there. Dentistry is evolving and I have no problem with the doctor’s staff doing things that only dentists did a few years ago, but his time behind my chair was exceedingly limited as he was busy going from chair to chair, almost running, to keep up with his patients. My Lake Ozark dentist was also a busy doctor but I was never rushed through his offices. He and I are also friends……

My point is this. Time is money and money is tightly regulated by insurance companies and group practice mandates, however, patients also matter. Studies have shown that, on average, doctors interrupt patients within 11 seconds of the patient’s attempt to explain what is wrong with them. Why? Time. The push to see as many patients as possible in a given time period is destroying the most sacred relationship that exists outside of marriage. In large multi-doctor practices, I expect to soon see time keepers in the hallways, computers in hand, carefully managing the time for each patient and knocking on an exam room door when time is up. If you are a doctor, do us a favor. Put the damned computer down and talk to us. Feel free to make an unsolicited observation or recommendation regarding our health and well being. Take a minute or two to listen to us. We are depending on you as if our life is at stake.

A visit to your doctor shouldn’t make you feel as if you are on Shark Tank. Even Shark Tank contestants get more than 11 seconds…..

4 thoughts on “Have You Got A Minute?

  1. You are correct, SR, that most physicians are ruled by time. I once went to a doctor in Joplin, where I discovered his staff booked 4 patients for the same time slot every day. Since my appointment was at 3pm, I left work early and finally left his office 4 1/2 hours later. He was not a brand new doctor trying to pay off student loans and equipment, he was a corporate doctor. You’ve heard the phrase “Owing your soul to the company store”. The company in this case is corporate greed. When a physician is attached to a hospital, they can rule his practice. One cardiac surgeon I knew at a local hospital, left Joplin because the hospital required he do 5 coronary surgeries/day. Unable to do that and not give full attention to his patients while they were in ICCU post surgery, he quit and went elsewhere. We lost a terrific surgeon and a caring man.
    It is unfortunately, the truth, that we need a hospital based physician. Private practice docs have no hospital privileges. In this case you wil have to submit to hospitalists, who are doctors only hired by the hospital. They have no prior knowledge of your history, and frankly seem to not be interested in it. They can and do change your own physicians orders without contacting him. Our hospital systems need to be evaluated and changes made to improve patient care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is what the world is coming to. Everything seems timed. Maybe this factory assembly method works for mass productivity, but not humans. So easy to miss the little warning signs.
    Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

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