Got Good Healthcare?
Finding good health care and good health care practitioners is often more challenging than you’d expect. Sometimes it seems that if your symptoms don’t match a recognizable pattern, you’re probably gonna get a raised eyebrow followed by a glazing-over that’s only appropriate in the world of donuts. The raised eyebrow speaks volumes. You immediately wonder if your doctor thinks your crazy, or worse, lying.
And then, the unhelpful parting words, delivered like a Speak & Spell.
“Consider losing some weight.”
“Perhaps a therapist would be a good choice for you.”
Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience when they visit the doctor. And not that those suggestion above aren’t “good” advice (though, let’s be honest – it’s usually not breaking news to the person that actually inhabits the earthsuit that’s being examined). It’s just that these suggestions have to be given in the right context, and with the right kind of support. Telling an overweight patient with an addiction to sugar that their back pain won’t go away until they drop 50 pounds is about as helpful as telling someone that they have unusually large ears. And if you follow this up with a prescription narcotic for pain – well that’s about as good as suggesting that they hide those big ears with a hat.
In the community acupuncture clinic, it’s not unusual for a patient to burst into tears when they realize that this practitioner standing in front of them actually wants to know MORE about their health issues, no matter how many, and no matter how odd. And when all of these seemingly disparate health issues can be explained in context of each other….well, hallelujah!
I’m sure we can all agree: It’s scary enough when your health is in question, but it’s even scarier when you don’t feel well and you’re dismissed by the person you’ve looked to for help.
So, what does good health care look like? What should a good patient-practitioner exchange look like? Yes, I am blogging for the Wildwood Medicine clinic, which means, yes, I am biased. I wanted to be affiliated with Wildwood the moment I met the owners, Sasha Rose and Daniel Katz. This is to say that I wanted to work at a clinic where patient care was a priority; a place where patients felt safe, well-cared for, and most importantly, heard. And so I found Wildwood Medicine.
When I returned to Maine (after 10 years of being in Oregon), I started calling clinics in Portland, Maine that offered acupuncture; I figured I’d make some connections and search out possible employment opportunities. I got a lot of “sorry, the owner of the clinic is busy, can I take your number?” followed up by no return call. Bummer. But hey, people are busy.
Not the story when I called Wildwood, however. When I spoke with Daniel Katz he immediately set up a time for us to meet in person. (Awesome!) When I arrived at Wildwood Medicine, I was given a tour of the clinic; Daniel introduced me to his wife, Sasha Rose, who is a naturopath and an acupuncturist (and a yoga instructor). Sasha and Daniel introduced me to the other practitioners in the clinic (Wildwood has an expansive range of practitioners, all very talented. Check ‘em out on the website if you’re interested).
I knew immediately that this is the kind of place that I’d been searching for since my return to Maine. The atmosphere was friendly, yet professional. And after picking Daniel’s brain over a strong cup o’ joe, I was psyched that I had found a group of healers that were making a significant difference in their patient’s lives.
Guidelines to Finding Good Healthcare
Whether you ever visit Wildwood Medicine or not, here are a couple of simple guidelines to figure out whether you’re going to get good care. Before I move on, I want to say that I understand that not everyone has the luxury to pick and choose practitioners/clinics/modalities when it comes to healthcare. Managed care is managed care.
I am saying, however, that you have the ability to make yourself heard. And that you should be heard. When you see a practitioner, their first (and most important) responsibility is to listen to what you are saying. Because guess what? Ain’t no one living in your body but you (unless you have a parasite or you’re pregnant, but those are separate blogs, and NO, I’m not comparing babies to parasites). *wink*
Does your practitioner seem to care about what you have to say? Or do you feel as if you are on a conveyor belt in which apathetic workers examine you and show limited-to-no human connection? It’s one thing to be a busy practitioner who must be efficient in order to stay on track and keep a practice in the black. It’s another thing to work at a factory that’s disguised itself as a health care facility. Some clinics are so busy that you simply can’t get the care that you need. In my experience, it’s really not that the providers are apathetic jerks; it’s that many of them are rubbed raw due to the fact that they cannot sanely give the kind of care that they would like to give. There are tons of factors that influence this – first and foremost, what can you expect when healthcare becomes a money-making game in which quick turnover and pharmaceutical superfluity is the means to said goal?
When visiting a new clinic, or setting up an appointment with a new practitioner, ask a couple of things. Whether you are seeing an acupuncturist, an M.D., a hypnotherapist, or a Nurse Practitioner – it’s all the same! Ask questions before going in, like: “How long is an average initial consult?” and “How long are follow-up appointments?” Ask if you can email or call your practitioner if you have questions outside of your appointment. Ask if they offer free initial consults so you can meet the practitioner in person (this is awesome, as you can gauge what kind of natural rapport you have with the practitioner).
I don’t mean to sound jaded. I don’t feel jaded. I’ve simply seen too many patients with similar stories – that when they were scared, they saw their doctor and got…scared’r. Or even worse, began to lose hope. I am not pigeonholing allopathic docs, either. All kinds of practitioners get caught up in the grind. This is a simple call out to patients and practitioners alike. It’s called a “standard of care.” And if you look up ‘care’ in your online thesaurus, you aren’t going to find any words but good ones.
Photo by BotheredByBees courtesy Creative Commons License