I had a doctor’s appointment today. While I was there, I saw:
- a nurse (weighed me and took my blood pressure),
- a trainee doctor (checked on my current symptoms, listened to my heart and lungs, prodded my neck to see how my thyroid felt),
- my endocrinologist (checked my last blood work results, talked about target levels for my TSH, etc.), and
- a lab tech (drew blood for a new round of tests).
All of this is routine; it happens every six months. It takes 20 minutes.
And yet, I was at Washington Hospital Center – where my doctor’s office is located – for two hours and 10 minutes. Once travel time was added in, I missed four hours of work.
FOUR HOURS. For a 20 minute appointment.
To be honest, I spent most of the time with my doctor talking about my frustrations with the office systems – and hers. (The trainee doc clearly told her that I’d mentioned that my heart rate was high because I was stressed from waiting so long.) The long gap between check-in and being called back? Two computer systems that communicate badly, and slowly. The billing issues I always have (being billed repeatedly for the co-pay I make on site)? Ineptitude and coding errors. Having to change my phone number in multiple places? The charting software used by the doctors doesn’t talk to the patient record system.
My doctor clearly cares about these issues – not only did she listen to me and fill in some of the gaps in my information, she also took the time to explain to the trainee doc how stress from WHC’s systemic issues can be detrimental to patients. She also mentioned working on a team to help work on some of these problems. It’s good to know she “gets it” and is trying to help fix things. I also like her, and think she’s doing a good job.
Yet every time I have this very routine, non-invasive follow-up appointment, I have measurable high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, and I leave with a headache the size of Montana. In other words: I come in well and leave sick. Every time. Granted, it passes. But still… What if I were like the folks I see in the waiting room, the ones who look like they’re starting out sick? I can only imagine how wretched they feel after a half-day going through the medical wringer.
I’m fortunate enough to have decent insurance, so I have the option to find a new endocrinologist – one with an office system that’s not trying to kill me. And yet, I don’t want to fire a doctor I like just because everything around her is chaos. Maybe next time I’ll just take the whole day off from work and bring snacks so I can just chill out and roll with the delays. Attitude adjustment must be easier than getting a new doctor, right?