Wednesday, June 5

Doctors Should Read This, But They Probably Won't

I had a doctor's appointment for my daughter today. The doctor was annoyed that we did not fill a prescription. I was annoyed that the doctor did not call my wife back when we had questions about filling the prescription. But I was also annoyed about the signage and marketing campaign that was being waged in the waiting room and appointment rooms that surrounded me.




When a patient walks into this particular doctor's office (and it's not unlike others I've seen), littered all around the room are signs telling people that they need to pay money now, regardless of insurance. And you'll owe if you're a no-show. Lots of sticky notes about money. These signs make the place feel sleazy, like a no-tell motel. It makes me feel like I'm being accused of something or seen as a lower class citizen just for walking in.

Another sign I saw in my doctor's office was one that said the doctor serves people up to age 64. Medicare is 65. What I assume from this note is that my doctor does not want to take the lower rates offered by Medicare or Medicaid. Of course, when I see that, I really hope for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system so that patients (rather than doctors or insurers) are given the choice. I am sure it would not be legal to post a note that says you'll treat whites, blacks, and Asians, but not Latinos. Sure, it might make sense for an OB to only treat women, but this is way different. The age note seemed to be more about money than anything else. 

The signs always get on my nerves a little, but the ads. Holy cripes! Some offices will be playing a newsy program on TV produced by a drug company. This office just had several colorful ads on the walls, along with a touchscreen electronic video ad in the patient rooms. Those rooms actually had several poster ads in addition to the video ones. All told, I saw around 20 pharma ads while at the doctor's office.

All of the ads want me to ask my doctor about the product. I assume that means the doctor has been sold on it, since the ad is right there in the room with me. So will my doctor give me an informed, rational explanation as to why this drug is necessary? I can't really be sure when I see all those ads. 

So this doctor had given us a prescription last time that we did not fill. My wife had the following concerns:
Would it be forever? Was there an alternative or generic? Was it safe for a kid with listed side effects? Why was it through Caremark? 

She probably had more questions, but the doctor's office never called her back to address her concerns. We decided to skip the prescription because I told my wife the doctor's office was like a giant pharmaceutical ad and the doctor didn't bother to even answer her questions. 

I feel that if you're a doctor (a job that puts you in the top 10% of earners in our country), you have all kinds of signs about payments, and you have all kinds of drug ads, you are very concerned about money. Probably more concerned about money than my kid's health. If, on top of that, you don't return phone calls, it's pretty much a given.

So I'm sorry I didn't follow doctor's orders. Another doctor even suggested a different treatment, which cemented my opinion our kid's doc had stock in the pharma company. But if I had $50,000 in yearly disposable income, it would be invested in Big Pharma, too.

After our follow-up appointment, my wife called in order to get her questions answered. The doctor was still a bit snippy about the whole thing, and it was implied that our home remedy method suggested by another doctor could work a bit if our insurance wouldn't cover the prescription.  Again, someone living on an oceanfront property probably doesn't have to worry about whether or not insurance covers prescriptions, so why should anyone else?

My wife then called the number we'd been given for the prescription. Our insurance company had already denied the claim back when the original order had been sent, but Caremark was still willing to fill the order. For $600! Uh, no. For a new product with a litany of side effects and, potentially, a home version that could do the same job. That is the definition of a racket, doctors. And that's why so many Americans have finally had enough of the health care industrial complex.