I miss the good old days.
A friend of mine wasn’t feeling well recently. I have a sore throat, she said.
What should she do? I gave her my best advice. You need to see a doctor.
She looked at me in abject horror. That’s not possible, she responded. My doctor exists in some sort of medical vacuum. I haven’t seen him in years. The closest I have come was seeing his junior PA, three times removed, about six months ago. I think I’ll start with my local urgent care center. The question is should I stay in my regular medical system and go to its urgent care or should I go see the nurse at my corner drug store?
These are the critical life-saving decisions we all face as we plod our way through today’s ever-improving American medical system.
Are you old enough to remember the days when doctors routinely made house visits? You’d call your family doc first thing in the morning, tell him you didn’t feel well and he’d say, Why don’t you come in today around 1:15? If you can’t do that, would 4:30 work for you? Or I can come to your house at dinner time.
We live in a different world these days. I literally cannot call my doctor’s office directly. (I choose to keep the health system anonymous, but it’s one of the big ones.) I call a central number that schedules me through a central booking system. Have a sore throat or minor medical issue and want to be seen by your doctor today? Not gonna happen here. I CAN email my doctor directly, but it can take him several days to return a quick note. And what do I do if his response says this: I’d like to see you for this. Please call the office to schedule an appointment.
So, urgent care beckons. And, let’s be real, the word “urgent” is used very loosely here. Short of having trouble breathing, no one is being seen with any type of urgency. They do, however, like to urgently get you back out of the exam room. A quick blood pressure check, a thorough examination of perhaps as much as three minutes, possibly a prescription, and off you go.
Back to my friend with the sore throat:
After an hour and a quarter, she finally gets into an exam room where a medical assistant triages her. She is told that she will be seen by an x-ray tech who takes a look and immediately identifies the problem. You have a scratchy throat. You need to be seen by a doctor. Unfortunately, the most senior person on-staff today is a nurse practitioner. Our doc on duty has COVID and is home in quarantine. The good news is I can get you into a physician at one of our other convenient urgent care centers. How does Smithville sound? (FYI - Smithville is 37 miles from her house.)
Off she goes to Smithville where she can, indeed, get into a doctor quickly. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s a sports medicine specialist. He asks if her knees feel ok. He prescribes two aspirin every four hours and says if her scratchy throat continues overnight, she should go back to the original urgent care center where she started that morning.
Maybe socialized medicine isn’t so bad after all. We’re halfway there already…
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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