I’m very fond of my general practitioner. I’ve been seeing her for only about a decade, though it seems longer. Inevitably, when I have a visit, especially my physical, we talk. Actually, she talks more than I do.
One of the things she’s had to get used to is the conversion of a bunch of medical records from paper form to electronic form. This happened on her own dime a few years back, when she had to acquire the expensive – and not always reliable – software, and hire med students to input the info. Ideally, this meant that all of my current medications would then pop up on the screen, but no, not always if a different doctor prescribed them. One of my allergy medicines was on a different screen, and this required that the patient – me, in this case – tell the doctor one of the items I was taking. Not urgent in this example, but could be problematic if I were an older patient and/or taking more serious meds.
What’s REALLY gotten on her nerves, though, is this demographic data that she’s supposed to collect, starting in 2014. She knows that it isn’t for the personal evaluation of the patient, but so that the National Institutes of Health, or some other governmental agency, can do correlation studies. What bothers her is the government using doctors’ relationships with their patients to do so.
She understands the question about handedness; certain diseases may be more dominant in left- or right-handed people. But not only will the form ask about religion – something the Census can’t ask, BTW, because of separation of church and state – but whether they are practicing their religion, which apparently makes some older lapsed Catholics quite upset. My doctor is supposed to ask whether there is a gun in the house; she might ask this to make sure that grandpa’s gun ought to be locked up because of his dementia, but she doesn’t feel that it ought to be reported to the government.
Worse, NOT getting answers to these questions will mean getting dinged 1% on each of her Medicare patients, which can turn into real money. Moreover, the proprietary software she has does not allow for responses such as “patient refuses to answer.”
Of course, what this REALLY is about is costs. Pronouncements from certain medical boards that proclaim, for instance, that a PSA test for prostate cancer may not be needed for men because the disease is so slow in developing will mean that perhaps the PSA test won’t be reimbursed, UNLESS the doctor specifically notes is such test is being given because the patient has a family history, which, in fact, I do.
My visit to my doctor: always interesting.