Doctors are pressured to spend less and less time with patients in order to make enough dough to pay off their med school bills. It sucks. And patients pay the price. Just when we need more good people going in to general practice of internal medicine, insurance companies decide to pay those folks less for routine visits. A great med student, saddled with a bunch of loans, almost has to go in to a specialty practice if they ever hope to be financially solvent. This situation blows for everyone involved. But especially for patients who wait in anticipation of scan or test results, only to be rushed through the news or the decision making process that may result.
A pal of mine got a call from her doc this week. A message on her voice mail. “Just letting you know the scans look fine!” OK, not ideal – but better than waiting and worrying longer over nothing. UNTIL, she got a second call. This time she picked up. Dr. McFlurry says, “Oh hi there. I just wanted to let you know that I may have missed something on your film. The radiologist sees a spot or possible reoccurrance, so why don’t you make an appointment to see me and we can go over things together?”
WHHHHAAAAAT? In what world could this possibly be acceptable communication?!? Seriously.
In this case, I think a patient should be granted what we called in grade school, a “free hit”. Dr. McFlurry should be restrained by an undoubtedly overworked nurse while my pal gets to sucker punch him. Just once. No need for extreme violence. Just a reminder that patients deserve more respect. My guess is this would cut down on “oopsie, my bad” phone calls like the one my pal got. And if they get hurt, well hell, they’re doctors right? One of their pals can stitch ’em up at a discount.
It reminded me of my encounter with Oncology Intern Barbie. I had been waiting with my hubby for over an hour to see Dr. Fab and get results from my latest scan. The one previous had shown the glorious words “Almost complete resolution of all masses.” In other words, I was THIS close to the official NED or remission status. I hoped today would be the day I could put all of this behind me and move on.
And in trots Oncology Intern Barbie. She was very young and fit with long wavy black hair and pink lipstick. OIB (as she will be referred to from here on out) was perky and had pretty shoes. She explained that she was here to do a preliminary chat before the doc came in and completed the visit. Fine. I’ll sit through OIBs song and dance in the interest of education and bettering the medical profession. But I honestly hate the “almost docs” chat because they can never give you any definitive answers and Top Doc always ends up asking you the same questions Almost Doc does. It seems like a huge waste of MY time. But whatevs, I think I may be done with this for a long while.
OIB plops down at the computer and pulls up my file. This is what she says “OIB”, what I say “me”, and what I’m really thinking “brain”.
OIB: Ok…lets see here….ok. Adenocarcinoma…..slightly enlarged masses…possible
Brain: What the fuck?!?
OIB: Yes, it says here that the tumors have grown a bit since your last scan.
Me: Are you sure? My last scan didn’t show any tumors at all.
Brain: Double check Bimbo! Stat!
OIB: That is definitely what the report shows.
Me: Ok…well, what does that mean? Where are they? How much have they grown?
Brain: What the fuck?!? WHAT?! TELL ME WHAT THIS ALL MEANS TRIXIE RIGHT DAMN NOW!
OIB: Ya know what? I think its best if Dr. Fab goes over these results with you. Why don’t I go see if she’s ready to see you?
Brain: YEAH! WHY DON”T YOU!
OIB: I’ll be right back.
Brain: I hate your face.
Me (to hubby): What the HELL was THAT?
Hubby: I …don’t know.
Me: She just fucking “yadda yadda’d” my cancer! I can’t freaking believe that skinny bitch just yadda yadda’d me!
Hubby: Yeah. That was pretty horrible. Lets just wait for Dr. Fab.
Brain: stupid Barbie.
(enter Dr. Fab and OIB)
Dr . Fab: Hi there. How are you?
Me: I’m a little freaked out.
OIB: I freaked her out.
Brain: YES! YES YOU DID YOU MINDLESS TWAT!
Me: yeah, you kinda did.
Dr. Fab: OK, don’t freak out. Let me show you what we’re talking about and what we do next.
Hubby: Thank you.
(OIB slinks out door)
Brain: I wonder if I can ask to never see that stupid broad again? I probably can. I’m the patient, right? I don’t have to put up with this! She really scared me and I think she deserves a mild caning!
Dr. Fab: I’m sorry you were freaked out.
Me: It’s ok.
Dr. Fab then led me to the doctors’ area of the office and actually showed me on the scan what had emerged. Very very tiny spots on my liver. They were small and very manageable. In the big scheme, the news wasn’t good. I had to consider more chemo and/or major surgery. But she explained my situation in a way that made me feel hopeful and resilient, and not like unremarkable lobster bisque. She’s a real pro.
Well over a year later, I have still not seen OIB again. In fact, I’ve only seen one other Almost Doc and she was patient and kind and devoid of bimbo-like traits. Perhaps Dr. Fab is screening them for me? I kind of hope so. In the meantime, I propose an amendment to the generally accepted version of Patients’ Rights. The “free hits” clause. Who’s with me?