Education isn’t only about students, teachers, and administrators. Actually, every sector of our workforce and our communities needs ongoing education to be the best we can be. It is with this in mind that I decided it was high time I provide a citizen’s view of our medical community.
Time and time again, the overwhelming complaint I hear from friends regarding the medical community is the lack of respect for their patients’ time. One, two, three hours is common in countless medical offices, and I’m sure all patients would agree with me that, except in an emergency, this is totally unacceptable.
You spend quality time with your patients? I sincerely admire that, but have your staff schedule appointments accordingly. So many people fail to show up for appointments that you overbook your appointments in anticipation for that? Why should all of us who do show up for our scheduled appointment be penalized for those who don’t?
In teaching, we often talk about “Best Practices.” I actually have two “Best Practices” in the area of scheduling, medical professionals who respect their patients’ time. The first, Dr. Sam Hargis, a McAllen dentist, should win an award for the incredible job his staff does scheduling patients. If I have to wait more than 5-10 minutes, an earthquake must have hit McAllen. The other is surgeon Dr. Guillermo Marquez. In his office, I may have to wait 20-30 minutes, but it’s rare to wait longer than that before being called in.
Admittedly, I suffer from White-Coat Syndrome. It isn’t unusual for me to have a rise in blood pressure and other signs of anxiety when I have a doctor’s appointment. Sitting in a waiting room for one, two, three or more hours aggravates this problem exponentially. I will never forget making an appointment with a local family-practice physician. I was in search of a new doctor and someone recommended her. I showed up, my heart working overtime due to my aforementioned White-Coat Syndrome. I sat down and waited and waited and waited. To this day, I cannot believe I stayed two-and-a-half hours, but I did. When my name was finally called, it was after 6:00 p.m. The doctor walked into the office and said, “You look really stressed out.” I looked at her, stunned, fighting the words that desperately wanted to escape my mouth. Finally, I said something to the effect of, “That’s what waiting two-and-a-half hours in a doctor’s office does to me.” Regardless of the recommendation or her skills, I never returned.
Recently, I have noticed two disturbing trends in the medical community. As patients, we go to get a test or procedure done, confident that we chose a doctor and/or a hospital that is “in network.” However, what we learn later is not only disturbing but costly. One is the practice of a hospital having physicians who are “independent practitioners.” The other is when we see an ad for a special price on a mammogram or other—usually diagnostic—test; however, in small print, we learn there will be additional charges to the patient from these “independent practitioners” who have to interpret the tests. In order for a medical facility to qualify to be “in network” for our employers and insurance companies, shouldn’t they also have to commit to having all of those who will treat their patients also be “in network” to avoid these costly and unacceptable surprises?
Finally, I would obviously be remiss if I ended without discussing the cost for treatment in most facilities within the medical community. Here, I include the cost for pharmaceuticals. While I have been cognizant of these costs for years, because of the dramatic and negative changes the Texas Legislature made to all public school retirees in the state, which began January 1, my awareness has turned into panic. Now, instead of a $400 deductible, we each have a $1500 deductible. Now, instead of paying co-pays for our medical visits and prescriptions, we have to pay 100 percent of those costs until we reach that magic $1500 mark. For those who have a spouse on their Teacher-Retirement-System healthcare plan, they have to pay 100 percent of all medical and pharmaceutical bills until they reach a $3000 deductible. This has caused me to wonder how often the medical community looks at what they are charging to decide if it is a “fair price” for the product or service. I could go on about this for hours, but I don’t think that’s necessary. As patients, we are often “trapped” because we would not be at that facility or buying that medication if we didn’t need it. This is where ethics comes in to play.
Martin Luther King has been credited with saying, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” In “Educating the Medical Community,” my goal is to ask members of the medical community to use intelligence and character in fixing parts of the system your patients can tell you are broken.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma's and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo by Sarina Manahan)