Get our newsletters

Chatterbox: Call the doctor


Someone recently mentioned that I’ve asked more than once, “How long before we are drilling our own teeth?” Chatterbox has discussed the self-serve business model in America, often.

Just three weeks ago, we discussed the response we get too often of, “That’s corporate.” Worse than that remark being old and tired, it has literally begun to affect us when we’re sick and need help.

First, as is sometimes the case, I offer the disclaimer: Most medical professionals around the world are dedicated people. Here in Bucks County we are fortunate to have some exemplary doctors, nurses, and staff who check us out to perfection when we are unhealthy. At our award-winning local hospital, the care is nothing short of amazing. Having used it more in the last few years than ever before, I am qualified to testify to their professionalism, expertise and high quality care and support of its entire staff, from the coffee shop to the operating room.

Medical care across the country is, however, being affected by the intrusion and corporatism of America’s medical insurance industry. Often, even medical expertise and intense compassion can’t offset that condition. While all our professionals, from our emergency call all the way through rehab, make us feel safe and do their best to get us well, the corporate chicanery with which they must deal is a whole other story.

When I was a kid, a family friend had to have some very simple surgery. The minimal hospital stay was three days for surgery … 10 to have a baby. The day before surgery, she was admitted. The hospital fed her a specific diet, monitored her, prepped her, and kept her a day after the surgery to ensure wellness and healing.

Today, surgery is more like a drive-thru window … even births are practically self-serve. We aren’t in the hospital for more than 23 hours, if it can be helped. Corporate insurance doesn’t like stays over 23 hours; they’re billed differently, while out-patient surgery is described as unremarkable. Medical professionals aren’t happy with any type of quick care, but they have no choice, because when the insurance companies are calling the shots, it’s corporate.

I was recently educated on a surgery prep, which should have been handled in the hospital. With specific and repeated bathing requirements, in addition to a complicated preparatory regime, this pre-op prep was definitely not “do-it-yourself.” It not only took about 12 hours, though there was a little down-time, it was also impossible for anyone to handle alone. Nonetheless, the patient, who was already sick enough to need the surgery, was responsible to perform the prep at home. So, patients are forced to recruit whomever they can to help.

While we call in play-by-play questions to our doctor’s office, let’s consider the hardship on: patients who are impaired, less mobile, older or downright elderly; patients whose only assistant might be a partner who is impaired or as old as they are, if not older; patients who live alone – regardless of age; and patients who may have young children to care for during the whole complicated, time-consuming and sometimes debilitating process.

So, pre-op preparation at home, including as assisted by the next person in line to the patient, isn’t convenient or comfortable. It’s also not safe; it could be interrupted, rushed, done wrong. Sometimes, it may be not done at all.

Surgical prep is better for everyone when done in the hospital. It’s safer and less stressful for a patient who is facing anesthesia and surgery and, in the hands of capable, experienced, and educated medical professionals, it also lowers the risk of complications. The situation repeats itself with post-surgery care as well, which is often more complicated.

Many of us understand the mechanics of health care as affected by the health care insurance industry of today’s America. It’s amazing anything gets done at all. Most medical professionals are inundated by paperwork and investing too much time explaining declined, yet valid, claims for care to insurance companies. They also are no happier than we are as they encounter unnecessary medical situations arising from insurance-induced situations like improper pre-op prep done at home by do-it-yourselfers.

Self-serve everything being done to death is a pain but, when we truly are in real pain, we shouldn’t have to play doctor and nurse at home before the professionals save us from ourselves.

“It’s corporate,” doesn’t belong in health care and nothing “prepared at home” should ever enter the medical arena.

So, how long before we really are drilling our own teeth?