Friday, July 22, 2011

Frustrating Patients

My attending and I have a pretty good relationship. Good enough that we can have a back and forth about politics (typically a no-no in the world of medical education and "professionalism"). He tends to point out my leftist tendencies and I point out his right-winged nuttiness. After 3 weeks of working in his clinic, which serves a rather impoverished part of the state, I can see his point of view.

Nearly half his patients have their healthcare covered by the state. This is great, but it seems like those same patients tend to do the worst at taking care of themselves. I don't mean eating right and exercising. I could understand if they didn't have the resources to do that. I mean they ignore doctor recommendations, then get an exacerbation of their disease, get admitted and have a hospital work-up that costs tens of thousands of dollars, get better, then go back and ignore every recommendation made to them. It's frustrating for a physician when a patient who is unemployed (and has no trouble with transport or any responsibilities at home) misses important appointments repeatedly or a patient who has all their medications paid for not taking them. Yes, some patients with good insurance also fall into this pattern, but from my admittedly short experience so far, it's a nearly universal pattern with those that are under the public health plan (and my attending agrees). One assumption I could make is that they have trouble following recommendations because they have a lot of other problems in their lives, but it's hard to tell if that's the case.

No, fear not dear readers (both of you), I'm not becoming a Republican (though my attending keeps on telling me that it's a matter of time). Rather, I think that there needs to be a shift in healthcare resources. Covering expensive medications and procedures is great, but I'd rather give those up for increased education of patients and more access to social workers. Preventative care looks great on paper, but in the real world, it only goes as far as patients know to take it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Refill on the Vics

So two weeks into a non-academic community setting, I've learned what the real world is like. I'm not so surprised by fact that there are a lot of patients who are addicted to narcotics. I'm more surprised by how there are so many doctors that are feeding their addiction. It's so easy for a patient to find a doctor that will prescribe them some heavy-duty narcotics without too many questions that things that I learned in med school like counseling, pain contracts and limiting refills just plain doesn't work. If legitimate doctors to try to manage their patients' chronic pain without overly relying on narcotics they risk losing the patient and likely the patient's other chronic medical conditions won't be taken care of. Or, they can just write the refill to bring them back and make sure that they have their diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, asthma, etc. under control. It's a hard decision to make, but many of the patients in this area just won't see a doctor unless they need their pain meds refilled.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Slow Start

So, I'm officially a doctor. July 1st was supposed to be a mind-numbing experience where I get thrown into the medical system, overwhelmed with things to do and actually get to feel like I'm making a difference in people's lives. Unfortunately, I feel like I've gone back a few years. I start with a primary care rotation. Primary care is not my thing, but I can appreciate the value of health maintenance and getting to know patients and I was looking forward to actually acting like a primary care doctor. To my surprise, I find out that all I do is shadow a physician while he sees his patients. It's worse than 3rd year. At least then I got to see patients beforehand. The clinic I'm at doesn't have electronic records, so I can't even read about the patients. I go in not knowing what's going on and about 30 seconds later come out not knowing what happened. The physician knows his patients and doesn't really need to go into the details that I would have needed in order to diagnose and treat (actually, I'm a little wary of how quickly he goes through patients). It's a complete waste of time. All I can say is that at least I get paid for it.