Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of active engagement in our health-related decisions. To do this effectively, it helps to know several things about the healthcare system. This understanding will relieve your frustration with the way things are, and it may also make you more empathetic toward the doctor who doesn’t listen when you try to participate.
1. The healthcare system is a product of the consumer culture, and is designed around money.
Doctors are paid for a very short appointment time with each patient, usually about 10 minutes. That means appointments are booked close together and the doctor is invariably running late by the time the first patient leaves.
From the patient point of view, this means a long wait after arriving at your scheduled time. It also means your doctor may seem rushed, harried, and unwilling to listen to your explanation of what’s going on with your health. And, if you have the impression that doctors only want to hear about one issue at the appointment, that’s true. Ten minutes doesn’t allow enough time to sort out even one problem, never mind a complex health issue.
- Take a book, listen to your iPod, or decide to enjoy leafing through magazines you don’t normally read.
- Meditate. Put on your sunglasses and no one will be the wiser. You’ll be refreshed instead of frazzled by the wait.
- Book your appointment far enough in advance so that you can get the first slot in the morning or after lunch.
- Don’t plan your next activity for the day based on the time you would be free if you got in to see the doctor as scheduled. You know it isn’t going to happen, so be realistic and save yourself the stress.