Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - The Healthcare Future I'd Like to See

Yesterday was my first visit to my new general practitioner. My doctor retired about a year ago and I wasn't crazy about him anyway so I needed to find a new one. A friend of mine referred me to his doctor. The wait for an appointment with him was a bit long, though my friend assured me that he was the best. I can wait a bit for the best.

I went in to get my annual physical and to have my breathing checked. (The Red Cross had mentioned to me that after the apartment building fire, I should have my lungs checked just to make sure that everything is clear.) I expected to be in the waiting room for about 30 minutes for a routine physical that included about 5 minutes with the doctor. Instead, my doctor picked me up in the waiting room, exactly at my appointment time, with an extended hand and a smile. We spoke for about 20 minutes as he put my medical history into his computer in his office. I had the opportunity to ask him questions and tell him about any health concerns I have.

Then we went to a room that adjoined his office where he measured my weight, height, blood pressure, etc. He checked my breathing, my internal organs, and gave me my flu shot. The doctor. I will be the first person to stand up for nurses and say that they are underpaid, under appreciated, and overworked. And I will also say that it was very refreshing to have a doctor performing the mundane tasks of a check-up.

I told him about my upcoming trip to Costa Rica to make sure I didn't need any additional vaccines. Turns out that he volunteered in the hospital in the center of the small town where I will be volunteering. What are the odds? He gave me a name of a restaurant his friend owns that I should visit, told me about a few museums and a theatre I should go to, and gave me the contact info for a nearby spa and beach that are also worth checking out. Then he handed me a card with his cell number and email address and told me that I should contact him at any time with any questions or concerns I have. "And please let me know how the trip goes," he said. And he meant it. I thought I stepped into a healthcare time warp. A doctor was actually taking his time and showing concern and compassion for me as a person, not just me as a patient.

This gives me great hope for healthcare. This is proof that it is possible to deliver quality, empathic care, even for procedures like routine physicals. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate people in this country to have high-quality health insurance and access to top care. What I didn't realize is that it is still possible in this day and age to deliver care with great concern.

Too often we are held at a distance from our medical doctors. We are seen as case studies and medical files and a combination of numbers and statistics. My doctor's visit was different. It was compassionate and delivered with real care for the whole person. In other words, it's exactly what medical delivery should be, not just in this country for those with a high income, but for everyone, everywhere.

The image above is not my own. It can be found here.

No comments: