Monday, October 22, 2007

My Doctor Sucks

Today I got an unpleasant dose (pun intended) of the "efficient" American heath care system. I worked in health care (the insurance side) for almost 10 years and I knew it was bad, but geeze, it's actually worse than that, it's embarrassing.

Let me back up this post about 8 hours...

At about 9am I was rushing to get to work and I almost cut the tip of my pinkie off with a serrated Cutco knife. I was cutting a bagel, not paying attention, and SLICE-O, I'm bleeding. I think I screamed every curse word in existence as I stomped around the living room holding Bounty towel after Bounty towel over the throbbing cut. There is no doubt in my mind that I should NOT be a poster child for the intelligence of our species anytime soon. I mean, I've done this before and will probably, ultimately die from a accidental, self-inflicted, bagel blooper puncture wound and then go on to win a prestigious Darwin Award.

Anyway, so I decide to be a good, smart, patient and NOT go to the emergency room. Knowing that the copay at my doctor's is $15 and the emergency room would be $25. This is something I learned from my years in the health insurance business. Many people abuse the emergency room. They go there, even though they don't need to, not realizing that emergency rooms are the most expensive type of care there is. Most people, if they just saw their primary doctor for non-emergencies, could cut health care costs by close to 80%!

So I get on the phone and make an appointment with my Family Practitioner. What does "Family Practitioner" really mean? Well, Medline Plus defines it as: "doctors who have completed a family practice residency and are board certified, or board eligible, for this specialty. The scope of their practice includes children and adults of all ages and may include obstetrics and minor surgery."

Sounds good to me.

I get a 2:15 appointment and head over to see the doc and show him my wound. He takes one look and says: "Looks like you need a tetanus shot and a couple stitches BUT I don't have the facility here to help you. You'll have to go across the street to the hospital emergency room."

WTF? are you kidding me? So now I have to not only pay my $15 copay to you people but now I have to go wait 4 hours in the emergency room and pay another $25 copay over there? I grabbed my papers and headed across the street.

Once there, I apologized to EVERYONE. "I shouldn't be here. So sorry to take up your time. I feel stupid." The woman who registered me was very nice and we had a bonding conversation about how when you were little, your family doc would treat everything from ringworm to warts to stitches. And that today, docs do very little and send everyone to emergency.

I guess because of the risk associated with providing the services outside of a hospital setting. And with the rising price of malpractice insurance I don't blame them. The real victims here are the poor men and women of the emergency rooms that are struggling to treat everyone who walks in the door.

Needless to say, when they finally called my number at the emergency room, they cleaned the wound, stuck some magic glue on it, patted me on the bum and kicked me out the door. (Actually, they were all very nice at Chester County Hospital and did not really pat my bum or kick me.) I was embarrassed though. Emergency rooms should be saved for just that, real emergencies.

Not for bozos like me that can't cut bread.