I had my physical last week. Prior to going to the appointment, I had some labs done. I can get my results on line and did within hours. Even though my appointment was in two days, I knew my PCP would send a letter with the results. So I wasn’t surprised when I received an email from her.
Because I have a strong family history of high cholesterol and low HDLs, I work hard to keep my numbers as close to normal as possible. I don’t take medication. I eat well (am a vegetarian), exercise almost every day for an hour or more, haven’t had a drink in 40 years and take recommended supplements. These results were the best in about ten years.
My PCP sends me an email giving the results. The letter tells me my labs are almost good but here is what I should do to do better. Eat fish, watch my alcohol consumption and exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
Really? This is all you have to say to me after 12 years of being my PCP? I had to shake my head because I thought, why do you bother?
When I went to my appointment, I asked her why she wrote those things. I explained again that I was a vegetarian, didn’t drink and exercised. Her comment was, “How do you expect me to remember all this”. I said she should have taken a moment to try and remember who I was. I was one of her very first patients when she started in the practices. She said, “I was doing this at night and had many other labs to send”. I dropped it.
I used to have a relationship with my PCP. We would chat and talk about all kinds of things. Three things happened to change that. First, her practice was bought out by the local hospital. Everything changed. She became a worker bee.
Second, the electronic Medical Record became the focus of the visit. She had to get the note done and answer the appropriate questions to get the visit paid for. Even after six years, she no longer looks at me much or stops and talk. Even in the physical, she kept saying, I have to keep going when I tried to tell a story. I realize my relationship now is to get my medication refilled, referrals done when needed and a name to put on all the forms.
Lastly, the new healthcare law in Massachusetts changed PCP practices because they were swamped with new patients. Providers are overwhelmed, forced to see patients every 15 minutes and fill out way too many forms to get anything done.
I doubt my experience is unique. This is healthcare today and I, as the consumer/patient need to adjust. This is why it is so important to be an empowered patient to advocate for what is important to you. The medical profession doesn’t have the time and are overwhelmed by the number of patients.
When I hear hospitals and practices market that they are patient centered, I shrug my shoulders and sigh. It just isn’t true in real practice. My PCP of 12 years proved that to me.