Saturday, August 19, 2006

Corporate Medicine

I've had the same family doctor for about 18 years, and he's a great guy. Fortunately, I don't have cause to visit him often. Over the years though, two things have changed: my insurance (which costs more, covers less, and is increasingly a pain in the ***), and his office, which is now corporate-owned and run.

My doctor recognizes me on sight, and knows the bill will be paid. He knows I only show up if there's really something wrong -- bad enough to waste a couple hours of my time for 20 minutes of his. However, there is a fairly large staff of front-desk nazis whose sole job seems to be to keep sick people from seeing the doctor at all, starting with the phone system.

When you call, you're immediately dumped into one of those bizarre "press 1 if you're a health-care provider..." automated systems. So, I pressed the right number for an appointment clerk, whereupon I was subjected to no less than 15 minutes' worth of really bad music (sick people don't want to listen to disco), interspersed with three episodes of "hold please - CLICK" from a real person.

The usual routine if you're even able to get an appointment is to show up on time, only to be greeted rudely by the front-desk nazis with "have you ever been seen here before?" "Do you have insurance?" and about 50 pages of paperwork... not one item of which has changed since the last time I filled it all out. Then, once all the papers are processed and the insurance cards copied, there's a 2-hour wait in a full of people who are 1) gossiping, 2) complaining about their list of ailments to others waiting, or 3) taking cell phone calls nonstop. Oh, and the front-desk nazis want the $10 co-payment before you see the doctor.

I guess they know if you pay before you're seen, you won't walk out because of the long wait in a roomfull of crazy people.

This week was the last straw. Whatever crud got ahold of me on Monday, it was clear by Thursday evening that it had migrated to bronchitis, and I needed to get rid of it. After waiting on hold to make an appointment until my cordless phone died (quite a long time), I gave up and went to a relatively new walk-in clinic: Park Med Ambulatory Care.

The deductible was $25 instead of $10 due to my preferred-providor insurance, but who cares. Someone saw me, confirmed that I do have bronchitis, and sent me off with an appropriate antibiotic, cough medicine, and an inhaler. I'm still horizontal more often than vertical, but hopefully this crud will be gone in a day or two.

Now, to find a more permanent solution for a regular physician... one whom I won't see often, but when I need to get in, I can. I won't waste their time, but I expect them to have the same respect for mine. I don't mind paying promptly for my visit, but I do object to being treated like a deadbeat by a front-desk nazi... so I won't go anywhere that has one. Yes, I have insurance. No, I haven't moved in 19 years; my phone number is the same, along with all the other mindless questions I'm asked every single visit.

Any suggestions? Surely to goodness there's one good general practitioner in this city who works the old fashioned way.

I wish my kids' pediatrician took adults; he's really the kind of doc I'm looking for.


Anonymous GoldenAppleCorp said...

AT and I often visited Park Med a few years ago. We had insurance, and a regular doc, but it was such a pain to get an appointment. And we usually had to wait several days for an opening, something you don't want when you are puking your guts out and aren't sure if it's a 24 or 72 hour thing.
We stopped going to Park Med, though, when the really nice doctor told us that the place was really for people who didn't have access to insurance or a regular doctor.
Damn, damn, damn.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous daco said...

I have been to Park Med twice in the last 14 or so months. The wait is short the cost is reasonable and they seem to get me fixed each time.
I don't play well with nazis.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous AT said...

I agree, Park Med is alright. When I had bronchitus a few years ago (for a month, woot), Park Med is where I finally went. I don't remember a time in my adult life when going to the doc HASN'T been an enormous pain in the ass.
The American healthcare system (or lack thereof) is a crying shame, and the biggest blight against this place (other than a penchant for picking fights).

2:42 PM  
Anonymous RegularGuy said...

Have you actually talked with your traditional doctor about the problem?

We had a similar problem with our dentist.

Several visits ago, my wife ripped into him about his lackadaisical attitude toward customers' time and told him that the next time he made her wait we would be finding a new dentist.

He's been early or on time for us since.

I wish I had been more vocal myself.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Netmom said...

Yes, RG, I have, about a year ago. He seemed genuinely upset about the rudeness I experienced, but because the practice is corporate-owned (Summit Medical Group), he really has no control over the automated phone system... except that he could choose not to practice there.

We actually had a good conversation about how both of us could fare better if he just operated on a cash basis... but maybe the security of his current situation is too good to leave.

He's a good doctor, but I'll be finding a new one, and I will tell him why.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous RegularGuy said...


I figured you would have done what we did; however, I would have been remiss not to ask.

It seems that your doctor is in the "idealism vs. reality" mode.

It's really a shame that traditional etiquitte has taken a backseat to the purported efficiencies of modern business.

Hope you're feeling better.

6:56 PM  

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