Doctoring Health Care

Waiting for the doctor can be a blessing

I have an easy solution to a vexing problem in today’s healthcare crisis. A problem so widespread it is worth hundreds of words in the WSJ: long wait times at the doctor’s office.

But first, before I give my simple, pragmatic, master-of-the-obvious solution let me say something truthful.

I try.

I try really hard—to run on time, that is.

I’ve been there myself; a patient in a gown, in a cold room with only big-pharma sponsored propaganda on the walls to stare at.

At the risk of a sounding like a…blogger, let it be said that practicing quality medicine in the current luxury of technology is much more complicated than it used to be.  Such complexity devours our most precious treasure, time with the patient.

For instance:

  • In AF, there used to be only digoxin, quinidine and shocks.  Currently there are eight different anti-arrhythmic drugs, ablation, pacemakers and even surgery.  But the best modality for AF treatment remains constant, an educated and informed patient, and this is nearly always a destroyer of timely schedules.
  • In cardiac device therapy, there once was only pacemakers, but now there are defibrillators (ICDs), biventricular pacemakers, and biventricular ICDs. Despite the lengthy guidelines which give the false impression of tidiness, real-life patients are hardly so pliable.

Medical complexity is a chief contributor to long wait times, but the story doesn’t end there. After seeing the patient, the old-school doctor in me still likes the idea of a narrative to the referring doctor—a story told to a dictaphone. All the stickers in charts, EMR checkboxes, and coding buzzwords will never adequately replace the simple narrative of a person’s story.

“Are you complaining, or stating the facts?” 

Enough of the background, on to my easy three-point fail-safe solution to long waits for the doctor:

First, bask in the freedom. You are free–all the connected of the world spot you free time when you are at the doctor.  Breathe in the freedom of disconnectedness, of peace, of tranquility–the immunity to screen calls. “I was at the doctor when you called.” Ahhhh.

If that doesn’t work for you, go for plan B: try reading a book. Block time to read, to this I say as Napoleon Dynamite said…“Yesssss.”

Finally, if all else fails, pull out the smartphone and crank up #fb or #twitter. Before you know it, the doctor will be interrupting you.


4 replies on “Waiting for the doctor can be a blessing”

I have found that when going to see either my Cardiologist or EP I never am concerned about the wait. I don't want anybody getting in a hurry with my diagnosis nor would I expect that they should for others. And I can assure you that I have been the cause of many a patients long wait due to my countless questions and dialogue.
Now the dentist is another matter all together. To see the dentist behind his frosted glass chatting it up with the nurse really gets my goat.And you know as a patient it is nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with all that stuff going on in your mouth.

I figure that my doc's running late because they had to spend more time than expected with a patient in order to give them quality care. I don't mind, because I would want the doc to do that with me, if necessary.
I always make sure to take a book or my knitting and my iPod – something to occupy me whilst I wait.

It's not about waiting. It's about spending time in cramped quarters with loud, obnoxious people shouting on cell phones while a stupid TV is blaring 'the Price is Right'. Get rid of the sub-human environment and a wait is just a wait.

Dealing with my A-fib/A-flutter has generated plenty of appointments with cardiologists and EPs, along with a pulmonologist, a neurologist, and an ophthalmologist (for post-ablation complications). I am never concerned about the wait in these cases, as I always have my iPod (Green Day or Beethoven are favored ways to prep for these encounters) and usually bring something to read. It's a totally different story waiting for the dentist or that time when the OB-Gyn's staff forgot about me and I spent 1-1/2 hours in the exam room in a paper gown…

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