Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Doctor in the House?

Ever since the beginning of the year I've been trying to find a new primary care physician.

I have been uncomfortable with my current doctor for some time now, for a multiplicity of reasons -- hour waits (and that was back when I was working; I can't tell you how many times I had to call the office from the exam room and say I'd be delayed) followed by five-minute drive-by exams; perceived disinterest (as in asking me about medications I took and procedures I had a decade ago); difficulty understanding the doctor, partly because of her accent but largely because she seemed to be in a hurry to get out of the room; sullen office staff (I have found that the discernable craic, so to speak, of any office is often an indicator of the health of an organization). And, frankly, when I came out to her, in the context of a discussion involving birth control, I could tell that she was not comfortable at all.

Long story short: After my last six-month checkup I came home and said, "I'm done." So in the meantime I have been doing online research and querying friends about possible other doctors. And I decided to cast a wide net -- Fellow Traveler sometimes goes all the way to Saginaw for her medical exams, so I figured it was reasonable to drive up to an hour for a good doctor.

At first I thought I would stay within my current healthcare system, only because they run most of the hospitals in the area and have the largest number of affiliated physicians -- and they are aggressive marketers, so don't expect any collaboration or cross-referrals. But part of the uneasy feeling I've had with my doctor's office is something I've experienced in other offices within the same system; a certain soulless, bureaucratic herd-'em-through mentality that I'm sure comes from the top down. I know; it's 2010 in America, and who am I to think that I can replicate the kindly, personalized service of my childhood doctors' offices?  But then I got angry. We spend a significant chunk of change each month for my insurance premiums, and I don't feel as if I'm getting much of a return on my investment. So why shouldn't I shop around?

So the other night I went through the "Find a Physician" page of a much smaller healthcare system centered about a 45-minute drive away, in the city where we coop-shop and where I get my monthly massages and spiritual direction. I found a couple of female DO's who seemed to be a good fit for a middle-aged female with middle-aged health issues. I did some poking around a few online physician rating websites to cross-reference their names and found nothing questionable or alarming. Then I came upon the actual website -- a self-entitled "un-fancy" one-page low-tech website -- of one of the doctors. She believes in whole-system doctoring, including nutritional counseling and osteopathic manipulation; she has some special professional credentialing in treating persons on the elastic-waist-pants side of young.

I liked it. I followed the e-mail link and sent her a note: Is she accepting new clients?

I have my first appointment with her Wednesday afternoon, when I'm pretty much going to lay it on the line for her that I've felt neglected and rejected and need a basic physical once-over, plus a review of my hypertension medication and some support/professional fanny-kicking to help me lose weight.

That, folks, is the result of a three-month struggle, some days ending in actual tears, to find enough information about area physicians to make an informed decision. What about the people who don't have time or money or facility with information technology? It's been a long, frustrating process to get to here.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I feel for you. I hate seeing a new doctor. What that must do for the blood pressure, I don't know. I've seen the same doc for 33 years, so he is now over 65. I know that I'll have to be changing some time soon. I have an inside track to finding out about doctors, but that is changing too.

I went to a clinic 100 miles away last Sept. for some extra tests, etc. and I liked the providers, but in reading on the 'net, I've discovered that few docs anywhere know much about dietary treatments for what I have, which, it turns out, DOES work, yet I had to discover this on my own. Praise God.

There is intense recruitment for docs by search firms, basically that means that there is a great shortage of doctors, so these firms try to steal docs from other clinics. I'm only mentioning this because I'm personally suspicious of docs who have been, for example, working in 6 different clinics in the last 15 years. One such is just being let go from the place when my husband works. Makes me wonder where he'll end up next.

Hey, I thought you just wrote about blog-layoff. Good to see several posts again.