Monday, August 24, 2009

picture this

"See that?" Jack pointed out as we drove by a tower on the base. "That's where the President gets his healthcare."

(Please excuse the weird slanted-ness of the fence and buildings. I don't know what happened. In real life they're normal and vertical.)

"The whole tower?" I asked.

"Well, it's used for other things too. But when the President gets healthcare, that's where it is. He doesn't have to go sit in random doctors' offices."

I began to giggle at the imagery. "I guess that makes sense. It would be kind of awkward. Can you imagine?"

But then as I began picturing it, it made me realize that-- aside from the paparazzi issues or other fame-related things-- the things that would be awkward about the President being in a doctor's office or a hospital are the exact same things that are awkward about being there for anyone. We just notice it more when we imagine it with someone all high and important.

Picture this scene:

The setting is the waiting room in an internist's office. Barack Obama is here, sitting on one of those ubiquitous chairs with wooden arms and ugly upholstery, flipping through a 3-month-old copy of People magazine (if he's lucky) or Golf Digest (if he's not so lucky). The tired-looking woman a few seats down is trying to console her whiny toddler, while the guy on the other side keeps looking at his watch and sighing loudly in an irritated manner. President Obama's appointment was scheduled for 2:30 PM, and he dutifully arrived ten minutes early. It is now 3:05.

A 23-year-old newly-minted nurse, in a cute pink polka-dot scrub top, appears at the door. She glances at the manilla folder in her hand, then looks up toward the waiting room and calls, "Barack?" Letting his breath out in relief, the President stands up and follows her.

The smiling young nurse leads the President through a maze of hallways and directs him to stand on a scale around one corner. He does so, and she fiddles with the metal weights, then reads the number aloud before writing it down, commenting, "Two pounds more than last time." He can't help but notice that at least three other people he can see were within easy hearing of this.

Okay, let's play the game of See How Many Things Are Wrong with this little scene.

For one thing, why should ANYONE have to wait so long? I mean, I certainly understand-- more than many people, probably-- that doctors can run behind after a complicated patient earlier in the day, but sometimes appointments run consistently 30 minutes late (or more), and that's just ridiculous.

The name issue was actually pointed out to me by a standardized patient my first year of med school. Why do 20-something healthcare workers feel free to call strangers, 30 or more years their senior, by their first names? Seriously, in what other field is this acceptable? Do, say, customer service representatives call your 68-year-old neighbor "Rose?" No, they call her "Mrs. Henderson." Do lawyers call their clients by their first names? Do businesspeople immediately use the first names of people they want to make deals with? They wait until they're INVITED to do so, people.

And finally,
I know it's not really a HIPAA violation unless people can hear personally identifying information about you, but seriously, who wants their weight broadcasted to everyone in the immediate area?

Picture the scene continuing on and I'm sure you could think of more to add!

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