Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of having to see a few doctors to unravel the mystery of what was ailing me. Fortunately, I have health insurance and it’s turned out not to be anything serious. Over this same period of time, I also started seeing more than a few articles about how, as Baby Boomers age and the Affordable Care Act kicks into gear, there is going to be a shortage of good medical care as there will also be a shortage of doctors. I also read about doctors cutting their work hours and selling their practices to larger practices so they didn’t have to manage the business side of being a physician. All this, it seems, translates into worsening health care for we aging persons aka seniors, retirees. The bad news just seems to keep coming. I don’t know if the media has a shortage of negative news to report so they are conjuring up this stuff or there is really cause for concern but…enough already!
Baby Boomers have always been like this huge freight train coming down the track. When I think back over my life to when I first became aware of the numbers, I remember stories predicting doomsday scenarios for our lives even then. Stories like there won’t be enough jobs. Apparently, the authors of those stories didn’t figure on us being creative, inventive and entrepreneurial to the point where we created companies, invented products and made jobs for our generation. I guess they also didn’t think about how we’d spend, spend, spend, demanding more goods, houses and cars, which also created jobs. I remember the stories about our generation creating such a population explosion when we had our own kids there wouldn’t be enough food. Yet, with research and technology better methods of farming were developed so we have fed ourselves. One might even say we’ve overfed ourselves.
I don’t want to come across as Goody Two Shoes but I also can’t see, with the crop of doctors on my short list, where I won’t be receiving, not just good care, but, great care. For starters, the doctors I see are not just medical smart, they’re business smart. In the last 6 years I can honestly say my care has improved. And my overall experience with my doctors is better than it’s ever been. The longest I sat in a waiting room was thirty minutes the day after Martin Luther King Day this year. That’s the longest time ever in six years! Normally, I’m taken in by a nurse just about right on schedule. When my doctor opened the door to the examining room where I had sat for about another 5 minutes, the first thing out of her mouth was an apology for my having to wait so long. I’m here to tell you, folks, years ago I sat around in doctors’ waiting rooms for a good hour and then sat around in the exam room for another 30 or 40 minutes, if I was lucky. And, when Doctor “God” entered the room there was no apology for not being on time for my appointment. I was again lucky if I got a ‘Hello’.
That brings me to the new millennium doctor’s bedside manner. One of the doctors I saw recently was a first time visit. When this guy enters the room, he doesn’t say, “I’m Doctor Doe”. No-o-o-o. He says, “Hi, I’m John Doe” and shakes my hand. Then, he proceeds to actually engage in what ails me by attentively listening, asking questions, more listening. This is the same treatment I’ve received from my primary physician. She shows up with her laptop, pulls up all my records and actually has a conversation with me. Last time I saw her, after we put together my game plan, she said, “And, if this isn’t working for you, just call me and say, ‘Suzie, this isn’t working and we’ll go back to the drawing board’.” Really, that’s what she said.
Before this, my experience with doctors was they came in to examine you, told you what you were going to do, looked at you like you had two heads if you questioned anything and might not even answer you if you did have the nerve to question them. This new breed is working with you, the patient, in collaboration. It’s a partnership. Now, do you have to take some accountability for doing your part? You bet you do. I come armed with a list of things I want addressed and any questions.
So, I don’t see the future as being all that bleak on the medical care front. There may be fewer doctors working fewer hours. Or maybe supply and demand will prompt more people to become doctors or maybe some of the Baby Boomer docs will delay retirement. Yeah, that could happen. But, somehow, good old American know-how may find a way to fill the projected gap, maybe with more nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants in the same practice as doctors. I believe the efficiency I’m seeing in today’s medical field will only get better. For example, before going to see the doctor on the first time visit, I was able to download the new patient packet and fill it out prior to my visit. When I called on Good Friday and the office of my primary was closed down, I received a call within 5 minutes from the MD on call. She directed me to a hospital clinic where they were able to access all my records from my doctor’s office so I didn’t have to fill out a boat load of paper work. Everything was already to go meaning I could concentrate on why I was there and they could access everything needed to bring them up to speed in the shortest time possible. Yes, larger practices. Yes, a corporate health system. But, efficiency for the good of the patient!?! OK. You can call me Goody Two Shoes.