Monday, December 15, 2008

Paging Doctor Thoughtful

As I get older, I find myself spending more time in doctors' offices. Fortunately, it's just age-related stuff and nothing more serious. These visits can be trying since doctors seem to operate on the belief that only their time is important, and that patients are merely there to pay for that new Lexus every two years. Don't misunderstand, I appreciate all that doctors do to keep us healthy, it's the way they run their offices that needs fixing.

First off, there's the paperwork. The receptionist doesn't even look up, she just hands you the clipboard with the five page questionnaire. Every doctor you visit it's the same drill; they take the exact same information over and over. Why can't some medical website establish a standard questionnaire, have you fill it out, and then any doctor can download it when you come in. The reason is that filling out the questionnaire is only the first step in the big waiting game. It keeps you busy for ten or fifteen minutes, before you move on to the next waiting stage.

Two or three bad magazines later, when your name is finally called, you are ushered into the waiting room. Don't get excited, the doctor has three of these and you are still at least four bad magazines away from actually seeing anyone. As you slowly move up in the batting order, the nurse comes in to take your temperature and blood pressure. Don't set those magazines aside just yet, even though you've worked your way through the few readable ones and are about to plunge into "The American Journal of Spleen Disorders."

The endless waiting becomes even more fun if you are asked to wait all this time in one of those pathetic, paper dressing gowns.There is no way to wear those things and retain even a shred of self-respect. Keeping the damn thing closed so the twins don't pop out is a full time job. Add to that the fact that you are freezing your ass off sitting on a metal table, and you have a picture of abject discomfort and humiliation. By the time Dr. Thoughtful makes an appearance, you are toast. He has been established as the superior being in the room, and you are just the shivering schmuck trying to cover up the jewels while answering his inane questions.

Finally you reach the inner sanctum, the holy of holies, Dr. Thoughtful's treatment room. The guy coming out ahead of you is wearing clothes that went out of style since he entered the waiting maze oh so long ago. The good doctor breezes in: "What can I do for you today" he says in his brisk, bedside manner voice. (That voice is the second most important thing they learn in medical school; the first is how to bill the insurance company for as many tests as they can without risking jail time.) "Well for starters you can rub my ass until the feeling comes back" is what you want to say, but instead you mumble something about a sore throat.

After a cursory exam he prescribes the pills made by the drug company whose rep just comped the doc's new office stereo system. You will never meet an ugly drug rep. They are all stunning young women who don't know a beta blocker from a suppository, but when they come calling, Dr. Thoughtful leaves you on your knees with your butt waving in the breeze while he rushes out to greet them. If only doctors' wives knew what goes on in these office encounters, they would spend less time at Nordstroms and more time back at the ranch keeping an eye on Dr. Frisky.

At last you're done. Hopefully your condition is not a sensitive one, because as Dr. Thoughtful strolls out of the treatment room, he is apt to holler out to the office assistant, in full earshot of the crowded waiting room something like: "He has genital herpes. Put him on antiviral therapy and have him come back in two weeks to see if the rash clears up", or "She has a yeast infection with itching, and painful urination. I'm giving her an antibiotic and scheduling a revisit in two weeks." Now you have the pleasure of exiting through the waiting room as people avert their eyes and gather their children to them. "This is Mr. Herpes saying so long for now, maybe I'll see you all again when the rash clears up."

This post has been exaggerated, but not that much. I can only hope that some doctor will read it and get the ball rolling to make some improvements. In the meantime, I will leave you with the patient's prayer: "May you never feel a cold stethoscope, may the evil rubber glove never enter your life, and may all your co-pays be little ones."


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

The Whiner said...

You forgot my favorite...after you fill out the paperwork, the doctor comes in and asks you exactly the same questions that are on the form, which you already answered there. Perhaps if he spent 3 minutes scanning the chart he wouldn't have to waste your time asking you the same information twice.