My Kingdom for a Primary Care Physician

I’m the one in the middle.

(Warning: I don’t normally use my blog to talk about my own health, or interactions with my healthcare providers. So this post is unusual in that regard, and for some of you may fall into the category of TMI. If so, you are welcome to move on. No hard feelings.) 

I am a healthcare marketer – in and out of hospitals and in meetings with physicians on a weekly basis. I live and breathe healthcare. And like so many men, I neglect my health. Recently I’ve tried to change my ways by committing to a more healthy diet and modest exercise. By putting that plan into action, and with the help of a convenient online weight-loss app, I’ve lost 18 pounds over the last few months. My plan is to lose another 10 or 15. But it is too early to celebrate because I had a physical the other day (part of applying for a new life insurance policy) and my blood pressure was through the roof. Much higher than usual. I immediately called my primary care provider and his next available appointment was three weeks away.  Even after I was clear with him that I was concerned about this spike in my blood pressure, the soonest he could see me was in three weeks.

The truth is I have never been satisfied with my relationship with my PCP, and this was the breaking point for me. The reality is that my cat gets more attention from the Veterinarian than I received from my physician. Of the two of us, my cat gets better and more routine care. Wellness and prevention are themes with the Veterinarian. My relationship with my doctor is episodic at best and based on my occasional need for an intervention due to some illness that has popped up. I share responsibility for that, but his approach to healthcare makes it easy for this to happen. Time to look for a new primary care doc – and an opportunity to start fresh with someone who is going to be more engaged in my health. Maybe I’m just at an age where I’m ready for that. No hard feelings. And again, I understand that I am accountable for my health and for my relationship with my physician.

My search for a primary care doc: I’ve spent the last week trying to find a primary care physician who has an open patient panel. The first difficulty I faced was trying to get a medical practice to answer the phone. I consistently got answering machines and automated messages. I played along and left voice mail messages expressing my interest in finding a new primary care physician. Several of the recorded messages promised a response within one hour. This brings me to my second challenge: Getting a medical practice to return a phone call. For the vast majority of the practices I contacted, I never received a return call. Business must be good and no doubt they are very busy. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by the lack of follow-up, but I was. It was disappointing.

After calling one practice for three consecutive days, I finally outlasted the automated phone system and reached a live person, and managed to line up an appointment with a primary care physician who is actually taking new patients. It was hell reaching this practice and navigating their phone system, but at least that is done. Within an hour of making the appointment I received an email inviting me to sign up for a personal online account on their web portal to view details about my appointment, lab results and billing information. This was fairly well done and signing up for the account was easy. The practice also sent me new patient forms by mail that I am to fill out before my first appointment.

One thing I’ll add is that this practice has a number of physicians who are trying to grow their patient panels. Over the phone, I was presented with a list a primary care physicians who were taking new patients. Therefore, it is stunning to me that I had to call on three consecutive days to schedule an appointment and that my voice mail messages were never returned.

Anyway, that’s my story. It is tough out there. Finding a primary care physician is a struggle. Now what happens if I don’t feel a connection with the physician? Then I start again. Now I have to turn my attention to making an appointment with my eye doctor (overdue) and finding a good dermatologist! For me, this is going to be the year of healthcare. We’ll see where it take me – and if I survive.

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