One hand doesn’t seem to know, or care, what the other hand has done, gripes Mervyn Kaufman of his physicians, and he is sore about it.
Simply stated, I think our physicians are, for the most part, shockingly and perhaps arrogantly out of touch.
“Sit on my finger.”
That was a memorable command, from my urologist, about to do the usual (and perennially unpleasant) digital exam of my prostate. His particular approach, and I’m sure he’s got good reason for choosing it, is not to stick his gloved “bird” finger up his patient’s ass—a procedure most men over 50 learn to endure—but ask his victim to do the heavy lifting or, in this, squatting.
Later, after I was dressed and having my exit meeting, I asked if the doctor would be sending his report to my internist, the physician who’d recommended this specialist to me. “Certainly,” he insisted.
Six weeks later, in the middle of my so-called annual physical, I stopped my internist whom I saw don a disposable glove.
“I had that exam already,” I said. “Dr. K. said he’d send you the report.”
“Never got it” was the response, and since no annual physical is considered complete—for men of a certain age and vulnerability—I had no choice but to undergo yet another digital probe.
“Right lobe … left lobe. Good, good. You’re a little enlarged, but nothing serious.” Then he withdrew. Yes, my butt was a little tender, but what really made me sore was my certainty that no insurer would pay for this phase of my physical, since it duplicated what I’d received little more than a month earlier.
This is clerical stuff. Procedural. With computerized networking, it should be the easiest one of today’s complex health-care issues to deal with, but apparently it’s not. Here’s another example:
Sniffling my way through a ticklish exam by a ear-nose-throat specialist, I acquiesced when he handed me a written order to take to a local imaging lab. While leading me into the treatment room, my technician asked, “We’re doing a CAT scan of your sinuses, right?”
“Yes,” I said.
“What’s wrong with them?”
“Maybe you should ask my doctor,” I suggested.
“If I did that for every patient, I’d be on the phone all day.”
In truth, I didn’t know what was wrong with my sinuses—nor did my doctor, hence the CAT scan. Moreover, I didn’t think that I, or any patient, should be asked to be a medical message-bearer.
In this era of instantaneous electronic communication, why is it that in so much of our country each medical practice functions like a private fiefdom, and unless pressed, most doctors are loath to share their findings with one another?
I’ll have to admit that neither of these recent experiences was a big surprise, but they did add to my growing anger at what I consider part of a backward form of medical care that should no longer exist—not here in the U.S. or anywhere.
Yes, yes, I’ve heard that doctors are too burdened today to write things down, or to communicate with their staffs or colleagues. I think that’s bullshit, but if true, it puts an enormous burden on patients who may or may not be savvy enough to carry and share information responsibly or accurately.
In medical circles, it would seem that “back to the future” means turning one’s back on progress and the possibility of utilizing advanced social networking possibilities to share information, eliminate duplication and refine patient care.
I think our country should be a leader in health-care communication, with every physician armed and prepared to access up-to-date medical histories even before us patients arrive in the waiting room. Instead, we move from doctor to doctor like giants leapfrogging islands, each island its own socked-in preserve.