Last week I saw a new patient who changed physicians because of the impersonal treatment from her previous in-house For Profit HMO. This was one of those HMOs that owns the doctor group that work for it. The doctors were allotted 15 minutes per patient, and patients were expected to be seen on time. So the doctors parcel out their time evenly. Most of us average the time we spend with patients so some get a few minutes more and others maybe a few minutes less. Usually everyone gets more and that’s why we see our 5 o’clock appt as late as 6.
This patient told me she was just getting into her medical story with the previous doctor, when he closed her chart and informed her that her 15 minutes were up and she was welcomed to make another appointment to continue the discussion of her medical problem.
This reminded me of a few years ago when I had a clinic at the state prison. I was told that each inmate was allowed to see a doctor once a month for a medical problem. Most of the doctors would hear one problem, treat it and then call, “Next!”
I would never have dreamed that American medicine could ever become as impersonal as prison medicine. And I would never have dreamed that doctors and their patients would not rise up in arms and straighten things out in a hurry. But unfortunately, neither doctors nor their patients fully understood what and how the HMO movement really occurred and how a few administrators could make such a financial killing off the health care system. Unfortunately patient lives have been put in jeopardy and a few have died unnecessarily.
If this happens to you, be sure you keep records of all you misadventures for future reference. They may just come in handy some day for your surviving children.