Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Patients versus Patience



By Mark W. Danielson

Here’s an oxymoron for you: “Doctor’s appointment”. You see, when used in a normal sentence, these two words would imply that you and the doctor have both agreed to meet at a specific time. It’s such a simple thing, setting appointments, and when the time is set, all is fine. Sadly, this oxymoron doesn’t become apparent until you’re sitting there at your appointed time, waiting to be seen. Mind you, this revelation came to me not suddenly, but over the course of umpteen years of waiting for doctors, and when I think of the amount of time I’ve lost, it’s enough to send me to the emergency room. Hold on—there’s a wait there, too! In fact, even if you’re checked into a hospital, you have to wait—perhaps even longer because they know you can’t walk out on them.

These days, there is a lot of political rhetoric about medical reform, and it will be interesting to see whether things actually improve, or whether you should bring your camping gear along to make your indefinite wait more tolerable. (Ever wonder why they call it a Waiting Room?) Anyway, I’ve been a product of socialized medicine before, and I assure you—government care isn’t the best. But if you think socialized medicine is bad, consider what it’s like to have a socialized dental plan. (If you’re not convinced that free enterprise is better, check out some of the socialized smiles walking around.)

So here’s what I propose to ensure better private practice medical care. (Bear in mind, I’m making the assumption that people can be held accountable for their actions.) First, make sure you check in with the receptionist at the required time, then have he/she initial the time sheet you brought, and politely wait for your appointment. Jot the time down when the doctor actually shows up in your room, and at the end of your visit, politely request the receptionist initial your time sheet, and then present your bill for the time you spent waiting. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Mind you, you cannot charge the doctor for the time he or she spends with you; only the time you spent waiting for the doctor to show. (By the way, your charges must be based upon your current salary. Bringing supporting documentation may prove useful.) Remember, this is a business arrangement between you, the patient, and the doctor.

This business proposal is sure to bring about its doubters. Some will whine that doctors should spend as much time as necessary with their patients, and this is a valid point, but if every doctor were to schedule their appointments based on a reasonable time allotment, no patients would be waiting for more than a couple of minutes. Of course, then the doctor would have to change the office signs from Waiting Room to Reception Area, and that would cost money. Then again, with socialized medicine, they’ll have to change it from Waiting Room to Dormitory, so either way, sign changes will be necessary.

Since it will take a while for my plan to be universally accepted, I suppose the patients will just have to be patient, (hence the name) and find ways to occupy their time. Cell phones are out of the question, so may I suggest bringing your laptop and a snack? That way you can write a book while saving yourself a coronary.

10 comments:

Ben Small said...

Mark,

Good luck with that. I suspect the first time you send the tardy doc a bill, you'll be looking for a new doc, and might have trouble finding one in the same group practice. But the direction things are heading right now, I suspect I'll be packing a lunch and maybe dinner when I visit the doc in the not too distant future. :<)

Chester Campbell said...

I'd have to agree with Ben. Years ago when I had an appendectomy, my family doctor stuck his head in my hospital room, asked how I was doing, and left. When I got his bill for a hospital visit, I called and complained. Next thing I knew the doctor cancelled our relationship.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Until very recently, I had to wait a week to a month for an appointment, depending on the doctor's speciality. Now, I can usually get an appointment the same day. I think that the uninsured and unemployed are doctoring themselves because of the economy.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jean, you're right: appointments are easier now, and franly, it's nice seeing doctors getting pinched for a change. Oddly, their waiting times haven't improved much.

Ben, Chester, I also agree with you. There are many things worse than waiting for a doctor. Still, it's a bitter pill to swallow:)

Ben Small said...

Yes, it is. My doctor is pretty good about getting me in. And one time, I had to wait after I'd been led to the exam room, but I could hear from the noise outside that something was going on. Turned out, a patient had had a heart attack in the exam room, and they had to do emergency procedures. My doctor apologized to me when he finally got back to me, and he explained what had happened. I like this guy... He was much more frazzled than I was.

Helen Ginger said...

I always bring something to do while I wait. A book to read, bills to pay, something so I can avoid the magazines they have.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Helen, you're wise to bring in your own entertainment. Just think about all the germs on those waiting room magazines! The only way to safely read them is with gloves and a mask -- and then someone might mistake you for Michael Jackson.

Ben Small said...

Yikes! I never thought about that...

Mark W. Danielson said...

Hmm, there might just be a plot in there somewhere, Ben. Germ-tainted magazines lead to a celebrity's death. Yeah, I can see it now . . .

Beth Terrell said...

I also take my own entertainment, sometimes a book, but often a notebook I can be writing in while I wait.

But I'm afraid you're right, Mark. One need only look at the countries that have socialized medicine to realize we will probably have to break out the camping gear.