Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Primary Care

Another month, another trip to Sioux Falls for medical reasons, with two more already scheduled over the next few months. At least my wife’s condition finally seems to have motivated the various doctors to do some proper diagnostics, as opposed to tossing pills at the problem and hoping for the best. My wife also seems to have found a competent general practitioner here that she trusts, which has been some time coming and which I believe is directly related to the sudden activity, but that’s a topic for later.

On second thought…..why later?

For all the expensive specialists and technology that make U.S. medicine distinctive from (if not necessarily better than) most of the rest of the world, basic communication is what gets things moving. Finding a primary doctor who can not only understand a patient but provide a plan of action and if necessary get the right people who can provide answers (or at least some hope of finding answers) involved and motivated is the key to navigating the great medical maze and actually benefiting from that vaunted technology. (It only goes so far, however. My wife was told she couldn’t get in to see one specialist until June. When the other doctors attempted to intervene, they were told to take it or leave it.)

Unfortunately making such a connection tends to be similar to finding romance – largely a matter of happenstance, of stumbling around until you find the right person. Perhaps there’s a market for a medical equivalent of eHarmony, where doctors and patients can fill out questionnaires and search compatibility databases to determine if they should do business together. I can imagine lots of problems making it work, but if it did it could save time, money and aggravation.

Even once established, this relationship has the added complication of being easily broken by one or the other moving on, especially from areas like here; my wife has had a couple of GPs go to greener pastures in the short time I’ve known her. That and the shortage of new doctors going into general practice make the 40-year local doctor, like the 40-year marriage, increasingly rare, which would mean lots of repeat customers for that website. Unfortunately, I think a good number of those customers would be just as frustrated with their options as they are now. I just hope my wife can hang onto this one for a while.