March 30 was National Doctors' Day. Not too upset that you missed sending your doctor a thank you card?
My wife wasn't. She went to see Dr. X for muscle pain and low energy the other day. She waited half an hour for her appointment and was seen for barely five minutes. She left with instructions to get bloodwork done.
When the results came back negative for Lyme, anemia and thyroid, she was told: "Everything is all right. The doctor doesn't need to see you." It was the all-too-familiar brushoff.
Doctors have stopped caring, or even looking like they care, as evidenced by the monthlong waiting lists, jam-packed lobbies and overworked nurses who know more about the patient than the doctor.
Even chiropractors seem to have lost the warm fuzzy thing. Everyone knows that ringing the patient the day before his appointment is so that the cash register will also ring.
Granted, health care is a business. But where is the balance between money and care?
Take, for example, Dr. X again. He even crossed over to the other side -- that is, he advised my wife to use a non-evidence-based treatment, an herbal "detoxifier."
When my wife checked out the herbal detoxifier Web site, she found testimonials instead of clinical evidence, a proposed mechanism of action veiled in the parlance of pseudo-quantum physics and, most disturbingly, a reference to Dr. X in an advertorial on the opening page.
Money? In this case, let's hope so. Personally, I don't want Dr. X thinking outside the "science" box. I want him to prescribe the clinically tested stuff. If the clinically tested stuff doesn't work, then there are plenty of chiropractors who can help me fish in the pond of ancient remedies and/or placebos.
There does remain the possibility that Dr. X's detoxifier suggestion was spawned out of care -- that he was just trying to put a positive spin on things. But is that the kind of care we really want? Try this, he says. While he thinks, "Maybe it will ease your anxiety to believe that something may work." This is actually a brushoff, too.
Instead of rolling up his sleeves and working to understand what's going on -- even though the picture may not be all that much clearer at the end of the day -- Dr. X bailed.
Where is the "doctor struggling alongside his patient to figure this thing out" mentality? As my wife said, "I didn't expect an answer, just a little effort."
Maybe Hugh Laurie as Fox TV's Dr. House has spoiled me. But I have to believe that there are some doctors out there who make money and roll up their sleeves. Maybe a general practitioner in rural Montana or a newbie pediatrician in downtown Buffalo. If you're lucky enough to have one as your doctor, send her a belated thank you card.
Mark Liskey is a freelance health writer who owned a muscle rehabilitation clinic in Berwyn, Pa., for 10 years.