I had a disturbing realization the other day. My doctor has no bloody clue who I am. Now, to folks who have always lived in a big city, this might not be so shocking. I, however, grew up in a small town and went to a family doctor – who, incidentally, made house calls. He knew who I was, all my past ailments, and often knew just by looking at me (without poking and prodding) what medicine to prescribe. Now, however, I have to go through a whole song and dance every time I see my doctor, reminding her of past illnesses, while she rifles through my file. The other day I made the mistake of saying to her “Remember when I was in just before Christmas?” Blank stare. No. Right. Of course. Silly me. I’ve only been with this same doctor for over 7 years.
Now, I’m not one to complain much about our healthcare system. For the most part, it’s pretty good. A hell of a lot better than the American one. But as the years move forward, I am starting to see that certain things have been lost. Of course, I guess you could apply that to many sectors…like customer service in department stores…but when you think about it, going to the doctor is one of the most personal things you can do. I don’t know…am I crazy thinking that maybe they could work on a little more personal attention? On the flip side, I know that doctors have an enormous number of patients to see in a day. But is that another problem? My doctor, in particular, runs her medical clinic but also has an esthetics clinic which, frankly, I think she’s more interested in focusing on. You think she might be overloaded a bit?
Normally I don’t get too worked up about the doctors. I’m a pretty easy going patient. I go only when I’m really sick and sometimes not even then – much to the dismay of my family members. I often use walk-in clinics for less important stuff and see my own doctor for physicals and things of that nature. Why is this? Well, normally I can’t get an appointment with my doctor for about 4 or 5 days after I call. If you’re like me and leave thinking about going to the doctor until things are on the verge of critical, this scheduling poses a bit of a problem. So walk-ins are the convenient choice. Sure, sometimes you have to wait for a couple of hours to get in, but then I’ve sat in my own doctor’s office waiting for over an hour for a scheduled appointment. Really, what’s the difference?
And scheduling is what got me all heated up the other day. There’s a rule here. I think it applies all across Ottawa, maybe Ontario, and maybe Canada…but I don’t know for sure. If you make an appointment and you later need to cancel that appointment, you must give the office 24 hours notice or you get charged $25. I get it. A lot of people skip out on their appointments and it screws up the scheduling in the office. But does it really? Whenever I go in to an appointment, they’re not waiting for me. They don’t even have my file out. It only gets pulled when I hand over my OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) card. The day is so packed, I’m not sure they would ever miss me. But anyway, let’s say it’s necessary, is 24 hours notice reasonable? I don’t think so. I had a situation where my son came down with the flu on the weekend and since the doctor’s office wasn’t open on Sunday, I couldn’t call to postpone my appointment. I called at 8:30 Monday morning (my appointment was at 11:30) and got no sympathy. “Fine.” I said. “I’ll bring my son with the flu to your office.” Ok says the receptionist. OK? What is wrong with you? And what does this all boil down to to me? They don’t care. They don’t have time to care. You’re just a number on a file. That’s it.
Now, I can make some comparisons for you. It’s not all doom and gloom out there in the medical clinic world. I was lucky enough to get my kids in with a pediatrician basically the moment my oldest was born. The personal attention I get from that office is like night and day from my own doctor. First of all, they always recognize us. They know who we are. Second, I can call in the morning and make an appointment to bring in the kids an hour or two later. Third, I’ve missed an appointment, and got scolded (rightly so) but wasn’t charged. And forth, we are never made to wait long to get in. If we’ve had to, the doctor has personally apologized for the wait. So I ask, if some doctors can provide this level of service why can’t others?
Now you might ask…well, if you don’t like the service from your doctor, why not switch? It’s not that easy anymore. Many doctors aren’t taking new patients. For instance, it took my sister three years to find a new family doctor after the previous one retired. Three years is a long time to go without a doctor, especially when you have children. So really, they have us over a barrel. After all this rant the question that comes to me, where does one lay the blame for this? The doctors? I can’t fully blame them. They are trying to work to their best benefit under our system. The government? Perhaps. I wouldn’t want an entire system re-haul or to trash the system completely but I think some improvements could be made so that it is better suited to the requirements of today. In my opiniion, doctors are, in general, too busy. How can we fix this?
For more on Canada’s Healthcare System and its history see here.