It’s a sad fact that, as we get older, there is more that can go wrong with our bodies. Like your house, car or any other complicated piece of machinery, if you neglect routine maintenance and fixing small problems they can become big problems. By neglecting routine tests and regular doctor visits you are, literally, taking your life in your hands.
Unfortunately, your need for routine maintenance runs up against the reality of the practice of medicine in the United States. In my own journey I discovered that it’s not big things keeping people away from the doctor, it’s little things. Sometimes it’s just the reality of modern medicine and can’t be helped, other times it’s a calculated cluelessness that is both frustrating and, occasionally, infuriating. The really difficult aspect is that your experience can be completely different between one city and another and even one clinic and another. Over the years here are the sins of the medical profession that can be grating.
We Overbook Worse Than Airlines
We all get why a bit of that is necessary. People have last minute emergencies, they run into traffic and the more people your doctor can churn through in a morning, the more they make. Everything about U.S. medicine tilts the math toward booking as many patients as possible. If you’re late, they threaten to bill you. If they’re an hour late, it doesn’t seem to register as a problem. This somewhat unavoidable practice would be more tolerable if waiting rooms were more comfortable, but most have roughly the same comfort appeal as a bus station. Comfortable chairs, wifi and maybe somewhere to work would make the waiting room experience more tolerable. But medical people don’t get that because they never spend any time in their own waiting rooms. It’s 2015 and my hardware store has wifi but most doctor’s offices do not; spend $50 a month and get it done.
This Is Going To Hurt
The biggest lie in medicine is, “You’re going to feel a little pinch.” Some years ago I needed a routine preventative surgery. The way my doctor explained it sounded like the surgeon was building a ship in a bottle and that I’d be in and out in no time. The surgeon also glossed over the less pleasant aspects of the surgery; it was all going to be a breeze. Imagine the contrast between that pleasant setup and the brutal reality of a week in the hospital in mind-numbing pain, being bloated and miserable beyond words. My doctors undermedicated for pain, provided dismal follow up and glossed over my pre-surgery anxiety. They also failed to mention I’d be out of work for at least two weeks. It was so bad that something as simple as a cup of tea brought tears to my eyes. It got so bad I discharged myself and toughed out the rest of my recovery at home. The entire experience was a nightmare.
There May Be Complications
Another area that both my doctor and surgeon glossed over were the potential complications from the procedure and medications. In my case I churned through a grab bag of low probability complications, none of which were covered in advance. You deserve to know the reality in advance but my sense is many in the medical profession gloss over unpleasant side effects and complications because, if they were totally honest, many of their patients would decline the procedure.
And It’s Going To Cost a Lot
Doctors deal with so many different insurance providers and policies, they probably don’t know how much it’s going to cost you out of pocket. I discovered that getting a cost estimate and copy of the paperwork they want you to sign from the hospital was virtually impossible. Imagine if your car mechanic ran his shop that way. It’s like taking your car in for an oil change and end up getting a bill for $3,000. The one thing I did right was to insist on a blanket prohibition of other doctors assisting on my surgery without prior approval from either myself or my medical proxy. The new great thing in medicine seems be bringing in other doctors to assist and padding your doctor bills.
Like with any situation in life, there are two sides to this story and the medical profession has issues as well. They have to deal with insurance companies that don’t want to pay, hospital systems and other providers. Right now it’s an ongoing headache for patients and providers alike.