Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I am in the middle of a month-long foray into the machinations of my medical HMO because of a health issue I’ve experienced that apparently had been building up. To say that I am perfectly satisfied with how things are going would be to tell a big fib. I have discovered that at each visit I’m allowed 15 minutes with my primary care physician. In our screwy medical system now, he can’t find my paperless chart on the laptop he lugs with him from room to room; he doesn’t remember me from Adam (although I have been his patient for 4 years); he hasn’t yet received any notice that I’ve been in the ER due to a sudden pulse rate of 122 and a blood pressure of 180/113; he didn’t get the message that I called his office for further instructions; and he has not yet received the lab report from blood drawn on 11/2. This is mostly what one gets with an HMO.

Yesterday, to get my 15 minutes I waited in his exam room for three-quarters of an hour before he appeared. But I was lucky to get even this! My appointment time became available because a cancellation happened while I was listening on the phone to the appointment secretary telling me the next opening was in two weeks.

Unfortunately, this is the state of ordinary medical care. I don’t like it and I don’t think my doctor likes it either. The only mitigating factor, which has no relationship to anything at all, is that I do like my doctor, or I should say my Primary Care Physician.

So after laying out for you my litany of gripes, I must tell you I seem to have little tolerance for what came out in yesterday’s issue of USA TODAY in their Faith and Reason column. The headline says “Study: Muslim women uncomfortable with U.S. Doctors.” That’s ok. I can understand that these modest ladies might not be totally happy with the processes we’ve got in place here in the US. But I was flabbergasted when the opening paragraph of the article suggests that our doctors must become more attuned to Islamic beliefs and values that could affect the physician-patient relationship with Muslim Americans. First I had to I ask myself, “What relationship?” We don’t have any relationship with our doctor now. HMOs did away with relationships. (Before I retired my dermatologist had just been told she had to cut her time to 7 minutes per patient – and my appointments with her were at 6:30 she could get through the day on schedule.) Just when do we expect our doctors to sit down and study Islamic beliefs so they can be prepared to have culturally relevant dialogs with a small subset of their patients. Maybe I’m just crabby because I think that dialogue might cut into my 15 minutes. Selfish of me, huh?

But what irked me beyond belief is that a representative of an Islamic medical group here in the US says that the “onus” is on the doctor to make sure that the Islamic patients’ modesty and personal dignity are being protected. I have on one lone occasion run into a doctor whose bedside manner was so crass that I refused to ever go back to him. But that only happened once in 75 years of being seen by doctors. I would hope to God that a doctor doesn’t have to walk on eggs around me so my personal dignity would be protected.

Frankly, as irked as I get at our medical system now that HMO’s are in place, I feel lucky that I can see the doctor at all. Sometimes I see Indian doctors, sometimes Chinese, Indonesian, and some whose ethnic background I don’t have a clue about. We all have certain cultural likes and dislikes, but we manage to work fine together. I am not picky. This is where we are in this day and age and I can either adapt to it or take the consequences. I do not expect doctors to change for me.

I think the medical group in question here would be doing themselves a great service if they would focus on mitigating the apparent dearth of Muslim doctors in the US by producing more of them to serve those who don’t much care for the run-of-the mill fellow who, like my doctor, tries his best, within the limitations of our medical disarray, to keep me alive and healthy. Barring that, or maybe at the same time as that, they might help the Muslim community come up with satisfactory ways to facilitate ease of care when they are faced with needing a doctor.

Don’t make my doctor and his peers the bad guys in this.

The article can be found at


Anonymous said...

i really enjoyed reading this

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog, so now i can read it every day!


Anonymous said...

If you are not happy with your doctor visits you can always request to see someone else. My family see's HMO physicians who as well lugs around from room to room with a laptop and we have never had this kind of a problem. In fact, we get phone calls from the doctors office to check in on use depending on the situation to make sure all are well. You just have to come to terms that maybe your physician just isn't into learning about the person as much as receiving their pay from how many patients they see.

Just a thought.