A Tale of Two Docs: Part I.
"So you are here for ..." the nurse asked, tapping the keys on the computer keyboard and not making eye contact with me.
"I'm here to see if I'd like Dr. NoWay to be my primary care physician. I'm here to see if I like her, and this office." I said, already annoyed.
From the moment I walked into this doctor's office, I was uncomfortable. The people in the waiting room looked exhausted, like they had been there since birth and had slowly aged and melted into the seats. The walls looked like they hadn't been painted since 1985, and everything had this damp, dingy undertone to it. It seemed sad. Hopeless. But I had hope that I was judging a book by its cover, and that I could find my new primary care physician here.
"Yeah?" said the receptionist. "You need to fill out these forms and then sit over there until we call you." She handed me a clipboard - still without even looking at me - and dug a pen out from underneath a pile of papers. "And I need your license and insurance card. Like now."
Oh boy. I gave her my license and insurance card, and sat to fill out the forms. Even though I had barely walked through the door of this place, I knew it wasn't the right fit.
I'm an empowered, engaged patient, but I'm also a picky patient. Since taking my health into my own hands (namely, once my mom stopped coming on my doctor's appointments with me), I definitely have a choice in who is part of my health care team. Just because they're covered by my insurance or recommended by another doctor doesn't mean they'll be a good fit in my life. I need to be able to talk to this person. I need to feel comfortable being a little vulnerable. I need to feel like they care, even just a little bit, about more than just billing codes.
Initial doctor visits are like first dates - you go on them to see if you want to see them again.
And this doctor's office wasn't getting a second date. Because the following statements were uttered during the course of my visit (by the doctor, the nurse, and the receptionists):
- "You have diabetes? Maybe after you lose the baby weight, you'll be off insulin?"
- "For your wrist pain, you can take Advil three times a day." (Never mind the whole diabetes/kidney thing, right?)
- "Your license photo looks new." (How is this relevant?)
- "You test your blood sugar? Like once or twice a week?"
- "You were diagnosed with diabetes as a kid? But you went on insulin only for your pregnancy, right?"
- "An insulin pump? That's when your sugar gets really, really bad. It must hurt a lot to wear that."
- "You're here to interview me? Are you a reporter?" ("No, I'm a potential patient. Stress on the potential part.")
- "I can't find your name on your insurance card." (My response: "It's there on the card? Next to where it says "Name?")
Dr. NoWay herself was very nice, and I think she had her head on straight. But honestly, it was the staff who worked in her office who put me over the edge. They were rude, uninvolved, and uninterested, across the board. And I mentioned this to Dr. NoWay.
"I have to admit - I'm on the fence about whether or not I want to have this office handle my primary care. You seem like a good doctor, and I feel comfortable with you, but - and I'm wicked embarrassed to say this - your staff seems like they are on the moon. They can't find my name on my insurance card? Come on! How can I feel confident that they'll take your medical direction and process it properly for me? Their inattentiveness could result in a screw up for me. And I'm not willing to take that risk."
Dr. NoWay explained that the office had recently experienced a shift in staffing, and that everything was a work in progress. And I understand that. I have empathy for that. But I fear that, too. I'm fortunately accustomed to clinics like Joslin and Beth Israel, where people have their ducks in a row. I don't worry about the competency of the people answering the phone or scheduling appointments. I don't feel weird giving them my home address or my social security number (which is something I felt odd sharing with this PCP office - can't explain why). This new PCP place wasn't cutting it. I definitely can't manage my health at a place where I feel uncomfortable and insecure about the care I'll receive.
And it's not just the Joslin Clinic that's been awesome - my medical team in Connecticut was new to me, but ended up being awesome. Dr. CT was fantastic, and so was her staff. But I did have my fair share of Dr. Idiots. It's part of the health care management process - weeding through the mess of doctors to find one that fits with both your personality and your medical needs. Every medical relationship has ups and downs, but it has to have more ups to be effective in improving my health.
As a chronic illness patient, and someone who doesn't feel shy about requesting competent care, I think interviewing doctors is essential. We spend a lot of time managing our medical conditions - we shouldn't have to waste any time wishing we were seeing a different doctor.
The search for a local PCP continues. But I did see a Physical Therapist that was a very different experience ... more on that Monday.