Friday, October 2, 2009

Doctor's office encounter


As a rehabilitation counselor, my primary objective is to advocate for people with medical conditions or disabilities. This includes advocating for myself.

I went to a physician this week whom I had not seen before. I wasn't going for face pain or dental treatment, but I was a little nervous. Let's face it; most people who have to go to the doctor a lot are intimidated when they go see a practitioner new for them.

Before the appointment, I had downloaded forms from their website and had completed them. I had given the office staff my insurance information over the phone. We were almost set.

When I opened the door, I was greeted with "I need your insurance card and your driver's license. I take the items from my wallet and hand them to the person who asked for it. She hands me a clipboard.

"Read this and sign it." she says.

"How are you today?" I ask.

"I'm fine," she says. She doesn't ask how I am. Maybe she's seen so many patients she can tell just by looking at us?

"Do you have a pen?" I ask.

"Right there," she says. She points to a pen. I use it. I ask for something on the form - like how much will this cost - to be clarified. Someone else helps me. Before I can sit down, I am called back.

I am helped by a lady who acts as though she's a nurse. She didn't tell me her name, but neither has anyone else there. This is the part of a doctor's exam I hate: all the questions. However the nurse asked them so quickly and put me in a room that I barely had time to think about the answers. How wonderful, no time for anxiety. She was cordial and nice but worked as fast as lightening.

The physician came in and was wonderful. He shook my hand, introduced himself, listened, and gave me some good information. He ordered tests. It's nothing serious, but I knew that before I went. When he opened the door, I saw the staff ready to leave. It was 5:00. I was rushed out as they told me I was their last patient of the day.

No kidding, I thought. I commented on the fact that I was holding them up and got out as quickly as possible. In the car my husband and I commented on the unprofessional behavior of the office staff. They have the "you're just a number to us" routine perfected. Bob told me that while I was with the doctor, the office staff talked about my being the last patient of the month. They wanted to close out the month but they couldn't until I left. Oh well, they'll do it the following day.

Have you ever felt less than human at a physician's office? You know it's not just the money we pay when we are in the doctor's office that makes us a client, a consumer of services. We're not just patients. We're the people who pay the insurance companies to pay the doctor's offices. Can we get better service than at the fast food drive through? Yes, but only if we make it happen.

No one wants to "cause trouble" when seeing the physician. It's important, though, for us to remember that we have valid and important input. When we enter the assembly line, we have every right to remind people that we're human. We count. Each one of us.

Have you been hurried along while visiting your physician? Left with unanswered questions? Please tell me about it.

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