Which is pretty sorry. Let me tell you a story. Last Thursday afternoon, I went to the pharmacy for a refill on one of the two medications I take for hypertension, and found out the prescription had expired. I asked for a small supply to get through the next few days until I could get the prescription refilled, and they said they couldn’t do that, because it’s a “controlled substance”. What?
It used to be you could call your doctor and ask for a refill, but now they (at least the clinic where I go) requires the pharmacy to do that. Which the pharmacy does by sending a fax.
On Friday, I went to the pharmacy, but the prescription had not been filled yet. They hadn’t heard from the doctor. My clinic is closed on weekends, but I hoped they had called it in late Friday. So I called the pharmacy. No luck.
I waited until Monday, which was Christmas Eve, and called the clinic. They were closed. I got a recording which said, “If this is an emergency, please hang up and call 911 or go to the Emergency Room”. Well no. I’m not going to the Emergency Room (an $800 minimum charge) for a $10 generic prescription. So I called one of their sister clinics–there are seven in the area–and they said, “We can’t help you. We don’t have access to your records. But if is this is an emergency…”
One of the initiatives of the President’s health care plan is moving toward electronic records, so that any caregiver has access to your history. I confess I was somewhat leery of that, but now I get it.
The thing is, while I wouldn’t go to the ER, it was becoming something of an emergency. Saturday, after missing a day and a half of the medication, I had a massive headache, which I knew meant my blood pressure was up. I chose to try to be very quiet and still and wait. And hope I didn’t have a stroke in the meantime. The headache never went away, and plus, I felt sick. The kind of “sick” that you are when your blood pressure is high is not easily described.
It was no use calling either the clinic or the pharmacy on Tuesday. It was Christmas Day, and both were closed. On Wednesday, I called the pharmacy. Still no prescription. I called the clinic. They said, “Yes, we do have the fax from the pharmacy, but the thing is, it’s still on the doctor’s desk. She’s been the only doctor here today and has had to see all the patients”.
On Thursday I called the pharmacy back. Still no prescription. On Friday I called again. They had it, and it was ready. By this time, I’m very, very sick, and was having trouble contemplating the idea of moving from the couch.
So here are a few things that are wrong: no electronic record. Not enough doctors. The fact that doctors in the U.S. expect to be rich. Which is understandable, since the cost of medical school is astronomical. Assuming you ever make it out of that debt in your lifetime, then you’re faced with malpractice insurance, which is equally astronomical. The cost of going to the Emergency Room–which is the primary source of medical care for those without health insurance. So if you do have it, then you are paying for all those who don’t. (Thus the $800 minimum.) So wouldn’t it be better if everyone had it?
Having said all that, I’d say that in order to have a good medical professional, you also have to be a good patient. For instance, don’t fail to notice that a critical prescription is expiring just before the Christmas holidays.