A patient of mine saw a cardiologist recently.
His previous cardiologist has retired. The patient had a cardiac bypass in the past, he has a stent, he has known coronary heart disease and he’s in the young half of my practice. That is, under 60.
He had not seen a cardiologist for 2-3 years because he had a work injury, worked with Labor and Industries, the case was closed, he couldn’t go back to work, he found a lawyer. He lost his regular health insurance along with the job, so couldn’t see the cardiologist.
The L & I case is reopened. A physiatrist recommended specific treatment that was not done, and that allowed the case to reopen.
The specific treatment center then notes that he has heart disease and that he needs clearance from a cardiologist. I set him up with a new cardiologist.
“How was the visit?” I ask.
He shrugs. “The staff was nice.”
“I have the note.”
“The cardiologist spent under ten minutes with me. It was clear that she was rushed. She did not seem very interested. It was difficult to get my questions answered.”
“Her note is six pages.”
He snorts. “Great that she could get a six page note out of that visit.”
“Do you want a copy?”
He is cleared for the specific treatment.
I have no doubt that the cardiologist spent more than 6-8 minutes on his visit and his note. But not in the room. Other people are entering the information filled out in the waiting room, medicines, allergies, past medical history, family history. Hopefully the cardiologist is reading my note and letter. But the problem is, doctors aren’t doing it in the room. So the impression left with the patient is that we spend 6-8 minutes on their visit, we are late, we are rushed. Doctors are looking at data. They are not listening to patients.
Medical Economics, a journal that arrives without me asking for it, says over and over that we need more physician “extenders”, that we need to have people doing the data entry, people doing the patient teaching, more people and machines….No. They are wrong. We need LESS barriers between us and the patients, not MORE. We need more time with patients. Every single extender we add burns physicians out more, because the salary has to be paid AND more patients seen faster to do that AND we are still ultimately responsible for knowing and reading and absorbing every single piece of information that is placed in that patient’s chart. An extender is NOT an extension of my brain and an extender is another person I have to communicate with and train.
Just. Say. No. to the managers who pile MORE barriers between the physician and the patient. NO.
It just makes me so mad that he lost his health insurance BECAUSE he got injured at work and so then his heart disease goes untreated as well… can’t afford medicines…if he then has a heart attack while uninsured we lifeflight him to Seattle, it costs a fortune, he loses his house and property and then is on medicaid and may end up on permanent disability, and what are the chances he returns to work? The US medical corporate money grubbing is insane. Single payer, medicare for all, make the US great again.