Knock on clinic door rude awakening to state of health care

Written by Dorothy Swart Fleshman January 27, 2012 09:08 pm

I am not a politician. In fact, I do not even like politics even though I do try to study the issues and vote the best I can.

This is in no way a political column today and has nothing to do with voting groups or parties, but something has happened recently that has given me cause for concern, and I am looking for answers.

This was the situation:

The knock on the door at the hospital clinic came at five minutes to the hour.

It was a sharp rap of authority, and my doctor started gathering up my records, getting ready to leave to attend another patient.

We were almost ready to conclude my appointment, but another five minutes were important to me to determine the next step in my treatment. 

As it was, the interruption left everything up in the air. There was no recourse at the moment for either myself or my doctor.

This consultation between the doctor and myself was more involved than most of my visits, for I had been flown to an out-of-state hospital for a medical procedure and was now returned to learn the diagnosis from several other physicians.

The case was a little complicated in that cause and treatment were not clear at the moment.

Along with that, another medical problem had to be addressed, which also took up time.

I was a Medicare patient. I was allotted one half hour to complete my appointment. At that, it was 15 minutes more than the normal time allowed for a patient visit.

Now I had used up an additional 10 minutes when the rap on the door came.

I had prepared for this meeting by typing up my list of questions in order not to forget anything or to use up anymore of the doctor's time than necessary.

In spite of my 85 years, I try to be prompt and accommodating when using health care facilities.

It would have been completed in a few more moment's time.

Still, the rap on the door in order to cut short my consultation felt like a rebuke, an intrusion in the abruptness of its demands.

I felt insulted for my professional doctor and myself.

Was it really necessary?

Was it because I was a Medicare patient, an expendable 85 year old, that my time must be limited?

Was the length of my visit judged in dollars and cents rather than need?

Were there so many patients waiting to be served that the time-limit was necessary regardless of need?

Were we still short of available doctors?

I couldn't help but wonder.

I try to be lenient and understanding in circumstances such as this, but in this case it felt invasive to my health care, limiting my doctor, and myself, from completing my needed care.

I am trying to justify the intrusion in my mind, but have failed to do so at the present.  Because of the abruptness of the visit, I had no further appointment date or know whether or not there would be further treatment for either of two additional and potentially serious problems.

However, let it be understood that there was later notification by my doctor.

My feelings were of the moment.

Stress is not one of the attributes toward good health, but which was part of my condition that evening as I thought about the situation.

You may already see why I needed answers.

Why is our health care governed by a clock?

Is this a trivial question?

Shouldn't it be the physician who decides when a consultation should come to an end?

I understand the need to process patient visits and times according to a reasonable schedule, for time is important to all concerned.

There are only so many hours in a working day and so many to be served.

The physicians and staff must feel the pressure of patients kept waiting too long beyond their appointment time just as do the persons needing care. 

However, is 15 minutes to an extended half hour a reasonable time-limit expectation for each patient, particularly the elderly or the reason for the consultation? I have no way of knowing.

What about the pressure under which doctors must work to maintain such a schedule regardless of the needs of their patients and their own time to dictate consideration of each case following the patient visit?

Was the time cut-off actually detrimental to my overall health even though it caused me concern?

Perhaps not. 

Only my doctor knows that, but he could do nothing about it at the time. It did interrupt his concentration. I observed that.

What will happen to our world if we lose the human touch and become totally automated?

I like to find reasons for things, not just accept them at face value or to criticize unjustly.

Most of these changes we have been experiencing have been blamed on our hospital management, but a retired nurse reminded me that they may be doing as directed by our government, the coming results of the new Obama Care changes that are slowly being implemented in hopes that we won't notice.

Is this a true introduction to what is coming without our approval?

When I have been a patient in our clinic and/or hospital I have received nothing but the finest care and concern, so now I feel it necessary to learn the reasons for such brief timed medical visits in the doctors' offices managed by the hospital.

Whose plan is it --- the hospital, our government, or a combination of both?

Medical expenses are high, we know, and Medicare, even with supplemental insurance may be unable to cover it.

However, there must be another answer. How about bringing down the cost?

Do we need to take a closer look at the health care changes being planned for us, including the amount of time given for each patient visit?

Perhaps I am the only one having received the rap on the door and am actually speaking out of turn. I don't know.

Or, are there others who need answers to these questions as we live in an older community filled with seniors.

Are we all expendable old folks unworthy of staying on this earth because of our age?

Are we going to clear out the elderly by reducing their medical treatments via the clock?

Is this acceptable to those who must have medical care --- young, old, or in-between?

If not, what, if anything, can we do about it?

Am I stirring up trouble where there is none?