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Life Health > Health Insurance > Health Insurance

The doctor will see you – briefly

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My sister texted me yesterday asking about a doctor in our practice (we share the same primary care physician). She’s been battling an illness for days now; he was the only one available, and she’s never met him.

I’ve seen him before, and I told her confidently: You’ll see him for no more than three minutes, and he’ll just write you a prescription.

After the appointment, she texted back: “You were right.”

This particular doctor — at least with my sister and I — never looked at our medical charts, our history, and didn’t listen to us. There wasn’t even a thorough examination.

I know it’s not just us — every time I’m in there, I see him zipping in and out of rooms every few minutes.

I’m fairly certain this physician might be going for some kind of Guinness World Record.

This is an example of what patients have been experiencing: We’re spending less time with doctors and more in waiting rooms.

One study found that new internists spend an average of eight minutes per patient — a figure I actually think is generous. Worse, doctors are relying more heavily on electronic information than ever. This means they touch you less, interact with you less and make more decisions based on what they read on a screen.

It’s a dramatic drop in time spent with patients compared with previous generations.  

The study I’m referring to — published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine — found interns now spend nearly half their days in front of a computer screen, more than they do with patients, since most documentation must be done electronically.

We can talk about the advantages of electronic medical records — and they definitely have some — but it can be a big detriment to actual care. Efficiency isn’t worth anything if it means harming doctor-patient care.

I know it’s not all doctors’ fault: The new generation of docs has more constraints than ever — including duty hour limits and electronic medical record-keeping.

Then of course we can factor in the doctor shortage — exacerbated by 30 million new patients generated by Obamacare.

With obesity and other preventable disease rates rising, it’s more important than ever to have a relationship with a physician. And with extremely high medical costs, lifestyle choices — and actual conversations with a medical professional about it — are essential.

It’s a worrisome trend, and one I’ve experienced all too often. Instead of a meaningful visit, she’s told me to just come back a week later, and two weeks later, etc. when my symptoms remain. It’s a waste of co-pays, time and trust in a relationship I actually, at least used to, really value.

There’s also, of course, the possibility that I just desperately need to find a new doctor’s office.

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