Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why do people become doctors (esp at Duke Medical)?

It is very late at night. I have not been able to sleep at all - despite the best efforts of my psychiatrist's recommendations for medications. Just cannot sleep.

I have been studying for my post graduate school classes (HIPAA and anatomy/physiology). I already took the medical insurance, coding and terminology classes (100% averages). And I am preparing for the certification course. My horrible experiences with the medical system has changed my life.

Dad had a bad day yesterday. In large part, dad's bad day was because of me. I had dad up and ready to go to physical therapy (which he loves) early yesterday morning. But my left knee is discolored and swollen. I had tremendous difficulty bearing weight on the leg. I managed to get dad to the car. But, then when I attempted to transfer dad from the wheelchair to the car, I misjudged and dad fell to the driveway.

Then I just sat on the driveway and cried. It is frustrating for me when my physical condition impacts my dad's health.

I just cannot help but think that this whole care-giving process has been made worse by the attitude of physicians, surgeons and medical facilities.

Most doctors that I have encountered have left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the medical profession. Most doctors that I have encountered (especially at Duke University Medical) honestly do not seem to even like patients.

So why do people become doctors? And what makes a good doctor?

I will not even presume to be able to get into the minds of physicians (God knows, I cannot even get most of them to communicate with me about hospital discharge instructions).

But I know what makes a good physician:

1. The doctor must really care about the what they are doing. The physician is not necessarily there to "cure" people. rather, they are setting an environment whereby the patient (and the family) can cure him or herself.

2. The doctor must really care about the people that they are "doing it" for. Attitude is everything. Doctors should strive to build up a patient's spirit with humor if necessary. The doctor should be doing whatever is possible to give the patient (and the family) the confidence to face whatever is necessary in order to regain health.

It should not matter whether the patient is 15 or 95, a good physician treats every patient with respect. That may seem obvious. But, trust me, many (and I mean many) doctors treat older patients as if they are a nuisance. I am suspicious that older people scare many physicians or (and this one is hard to stomach) maybe caring for the elderly is not cost effective. Ask Duke University Medical. Maybe they can tell you why they treat older patients so badly.

I can honestly say that I have met very few physicians and surgeons (at Duke Medical and Carle Clinic in Illinois) have created an environment that gives patients the strength and confidence to face their medical condition. Disappointing to say the least.

That seems so basic. It is shocking how seldom I have found doctors that can meet those basic two (2) requirements.

I know what makes even a good physician bad:

1. Sloppy or uncaring support staff. I have actually seen the bio for an extraordinary Duke surgeon included in a professional medical association website where the surgeon's name is misspelled. And, the misspellings were not even consistent throughout the 3/4 page document. I wish that I could convince surgeons and physicians that a bad support staff can make or break their profession. The support staff is absolutely a reflection of the physician.

2. Uninformed support staff. This includes billing. If your support staff cannot determine the proper codes for insurance billing then the physician has a problem. The patient is hassled by the physician's billing office for that office's errors. Patients should not need to fuss with insurance companies and billing offices. It is counterproductive to the healing process.

Other times, uninformed staff chart or update their physicians with absolutely incorrect history. Over a year ago, my Duke orthopedic surgeon "forgot" that I was told by that surgeon to get to a neurologist to have exams performed (in the Duke orthopedic surgeon's words) "in anticipation of surgery to remove hardware." This PA actually wrote a statement up for the surgeon that essentially said that I (the patient) just made it up! Huh?

Still I have not had that surgeon and still I fall and re-injure the leg. Bummer.

I remember my first (I could not be happier to say that I no longer treat with her) medical oncologist (Dr. Gretchen Kimmick) told me that I had to be "patient" with her support staff at Duke University Medical. This oncologist told me that the Duke Medical support staff is generally "not well educated" and are "poorly paid."

You get what you pay for, Duke Medical. And it is all a reflection of the physicians.

1 comment:

  1. Brianna -

    Universal Health Care is a dangerous option for this country.

    I assure you this blog is for real. People's lives are at risk everyday by the Obama administrations efforts to fundamentally change the medical care in our country.

    If you are your family are injured, you should stand up for those for whom you care - especially the elderly and vulnerable.