A Funny Thing Happened at the Doctor’s Office

2012 August 2

There is often said to be a plague among health care workers… the plague of personal health care provider avoidance.  Although it sounds quite odd, it is true, that many of us just avoid our own annual physicals, screenings, and other primary care exams.  In the past two years I have unwisely put off yearly well woman exams, fasting blood work, and eye examinations.  This last avoidance recently became completely unavoidable, when after over 2 years I finally ran out of my 2 month contact supplies, mind you I had ordered enough for one year over 30 months ago…. Bad girl!

After the eye exam was finished my optometrist turned to me and gravely informed me that I now needed bifocals (not shocking, but still another one of those small annoying signs that my body is slowly making the down hill slide and my warranty has run out) and she quickly added that my optic discs were a bit too large in each eye.  I chuckled out loud when the optometrist told me and I informed her of the obvious fact that I am quite odd and having some freakish size to my optic discs was just like my body to do to me! She, however, did not think that this was amusing at all and immediately ordered me to the specialist the next week for further evaluation of possible glaucoma.  “Sure I’ll go”… I responded after her second attempt to evoke an oath of promise from me to keep the appointment, but inside I was sure that she was concerned over nothing, having no family history, exceedingly low blood pressure, and no other risk factors for glaucoma.

*On a side note the good doctor also did not find my aspirations for getting cataracts amusing, so that I could  get my HMO to pay for new lens implants and perfect vision (I think that my delivery of this message is hilarious, but note to self… do not joke about eye diseases with eye doctors…).

On the day of the appointment with the ‘specialist’, or ophthalmologist as they prefer… note to you… ophthalmologists hate it when you confuse them with optometrists, I arrived 15 minutes early as directed to fill out the notorious ‘paperwork’ – haven’t we moved to some other technology yet people??? The following is an account of what happened.

–  Wait 30 minutes to be called back (not bad), but called back by someone who had to be only 12 years old.  She was chipper, probably because she was looking forward to torturing me with blindness in just a few short minutes, and had no name tag. (I really like to know who people are and call them by their first name so this irked me a bit, but I am certain now it is because every patient who comes in there has significantly impaired vision when they come in and if they don’t they will have when they leave.)

– Chipper no-name takes me too a room, where she does not wash her hands, and then drops  a solution that she claims will numb my eyes into them, but it burns like acid.  She then drops in the second solution (the blinding solution I now affectionately call it) and says she will be back. Within 2 minutes I cannot see a thing and do not dare leave the chair she has put me in because it is up on a step and I cannot see the step to get off of it, I would hate to have stitches in the ophthalmologist’s office.

– 15 minutes later (not bad again) Chipper no-name returns and tells me to follow her down the hall for some tests.  She then opens the door and walks out.  I grope my way out of the chair and down a long hall with 15 closed doors that all look alike.  Luckily she left the door to the room she was waiting for me in open.  She quickly runs a scan of my retina (pretty cool I am sure if I could see it) and then tells me to go back to my room and wait for the physician.  Groping my way back down the hall I almost run into someone, but find the room, bang my foot on the chair, trip getting back in, but fall safely into the seat of the chair.

– 70 minutes later the physician comes in (you read that correctly… where was he all of that time? An hour and thirty minutes after my appointment, you have to be kidding!  He and the obstetricians should be in practice together and serve snacks and have TV’s in their rooms, since cell phones are not allowed and I know this because neon green signs stating this rule are plastered on the front desk, the hall way, the back of the door of the small room I am in.  The least they could do is tell you to bring your own work or reading material because there is NONE in the room. )… Anyway, he saunters in without introducing himself or apologizing for my being stuck in a 7 by 7 room for over an hour and tells me I have ‘pre-glaucoma’ (translated out of medical language that means… “welcome to old age”) and to come back in a year.   No explanation of the disease, outcomes, what to expect, why I might have this new introduction into the second half of my life, why no treatment now, etc. is given.  He then tells me we are through and I can leave.  He breezes out.  He made well over $400 for our visit and we wonder why health care is expensive?

–  I grope my way back down the hall the other way to the front desk, find my prescription sunglasses (a previous sign of old age I was avoiding) to shove on my face and help shield me from all of the bright lights, pay my co-pay and leave with my designated driver, only to enjoy blindness for another 3 hours.

Funny it might be, but fun it was not.  Borrowing a line from a Tom Cruise 80′s movie, “I am sure we can all agree that this is a good example of what not to do… (if you are the staff of the medical office)”.  I am not going to tell you where the corrections should have been made, but perhaps with a chuckle you yourself can figure the areas of improvement out and apply them to your own practice.  As we like to say in education, this was a wonderful learning opportunity!