The Best And Worst Of The American Health Care System
A week ago yesterday I had a routine appointment (or so I thought) with my primary care provider. She’s thorough and concerned for her patients and I’m lucky to have her caring for me.
About 3 months ago she started me on medication to deal with my high blood pressure. Since then she had me in for follow ups, every two weeks at first than once a month to check up on things, make sure there are no side effects and to ensure that my blood pressure is under control. She doesn’t even charge for all the follow ups, she just wants to make sure things are ok.
At my last appointment with her she found my BP was ok but was very concerned about something she heard when listening to my heart beat and was really worried about how low my heart rate was.
She initially said, “if you feel any symptoms in your chest, call 911” then she said she would give me a referral to a cardiologist and that I should call soon to set up an appointment. Then she decided she’s have her assistant call and get me in that day.
Needless to say this was…alarming. It escalated quickly as Ron Burgandy would say.
This was at 10:30 in the morning and by 12:30 I was at the area’s leading cardiologist have an echo-cardiogram, an EKG, a stress test and eventually blood work. All of this was done by 4:30 in the afternoon.
After looking at the results of the tests, the cardiologist told me he had no concerns about sending me home as everything seemed clear. He sent me back to my primary care provider to get a monitor on for 24 hours and we set up a follow up appointment for today to go over the results of the monitor and the blood work. It would have been sooner but the holiday pushed it back until today.
So today I got a complete bill of good cardiac health. There was something in the blood work but based on a recent and routine set of labs from 2 months ago, he thinks it’s nothing but will check again in a month.
The bottom line is based on my doctor’s hunch and concern I was able to get into see a great specialist within a matter of hours to get checked out and totally cleared in 8 days. That is by far the upside of the American medical system.
The downside is, was there something that could have been done that wasn’t as extensive to put her initial concerns to rest? I’m not a doctor so I don’t know. As a patient, I’m glad this marvelous system sprung into action to care for me but this stuff isn’t cheap. Health care costs go up because we have amazing technology and a veritable army of trained and concerned health care providers. When something seems amiss, you want it to get to work, cost be damned. But as a society we are finding the costs are damning us to debt.
There is no simple answer, in fact there may not be any answer. We simply have two competing imperatives that are in conflict. It’s one thing to know that in theory, it’s been quite another to see up close and personal this week.