Dysfunctional Encounters of the Physician Kind
With hospital systems and insurance companies requiring increased quantity of patient appointments rather than encouraging better quality interactions, no wonder I have encountered many frustrating doctors in the course of my disease. Don’t get me wrong, I have met my fair share of great doctors who provide me with the incredible care I have received over the past 2 and a half years. But most physicians are booked at 15 minute intervals–and it literally takes me 15 minutes to list the diseases I have and the medications I take.
This is a system wide problem, not a physician one (mostly).
Many times I’ve been driven to tears by physicians and others who were at best too busy to hold an actual conversation about my deteriorating health, and at worst, downright rude and dismissive when I tried to describe the varied, often random, sometime vague symptoms. Here are a few examples of those dysfunctional encounters:
“She’s depressed. How quickly can I prescribe an antidepressant and get out of here?”
Soon after I fell ill, a cardiologist that I worked with at the heart hospital referred me to an infectious disease specialist at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Sitting in the office that morning in severe pain, having not slept the night before, and relaying my symptoms and concerns for the umpteenth time, I burst into tears. The physician asked few questions, ran no tests, then leaned back and questioned whether my boyfriend had broken up with me. It was a female physician who asked that question!
“You need to see the doctor today? Good luck with that.”
I had been experiencing a few days of extreme dizziness accompanied by a racing heartbeat. When the heart rate topped 150, I went to the emergency room where doctors were able to stabilize the heart rate and blood pressure. The ER doc sent me home that evening with clear instructions – call this cardiology practice first thing in the morning and let them know you need to see a cardiologist tomorrow. So I did and was instructed to leave a voicemail for the scheduler. By early afternoon, no one had returned the call. I called again, was put on hold, then ultimately transferred. “Yes,” said the scheduler, in an exasperated I-can’t-believe-you-called-again tone, “I got your message, but can’t schedule you for at least 3 weeks.” Then (wait for it), “those ER doctors have no idea how we handle things around here.”
I did get to see a cardiologist a few days later, but only because I know him personally and he saw me on his lunch break.
“She’s doctor shopping, just looking for pain meds.”
I’m a healthcare professional. I know there are drug-seeking patients that make the rounds, so I understand that doctors are cautious when it comes to treating pain. But not all patients are addicts. There are thousands of people with debilitating, excruciating pain that just want it to stop. So here’s another insight. The vast majority of us DO NOT want to take pain-numbing drugs that leave us in a mind-numbing stupor. We don’t want to manage the pain; we want it to go away. Forever. Listen, don’t assume.
“I have paperwork to fill out, other patients to see and a date tonight!”
I was waiting on the exam table. The doctor finally entered the room after a very long 45 minute wait in which I entertained myself through a game of “connect the dots” with the patterns on the ceiling tiles. He stood sideways in front of me, between me and the door. Literally, he had one foot positioned out the door. Proclaimed what? And then he was gone. Never did he ever…Listen to me!
It took eighteen months to get a diagnosis. I can’t help but believe that more time in an interdisciplinary huddle and less time fumbling from specialist to specialist would have resulted in a more rapid diagnosis and game plan for recovery.