Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Doctors Yesterday and Today

 While waiting for the doctor yesterday, I got to thinking about the ways in which visits to the doctor have changed over the years. I had plenty of time to think - I arrived ten minutes early to a crowded waiting room, and figured I would be there for quite a while.
Thirty-five minutes after my appointed time my name was called, and I was taken to an examination room. “Not too bad,” I thought. Thirty-five minutes after that the doctor showed up! “Not too good,” I thought, “but not unusual today, particularly for a specialist.”
Now to be honest, during the 1940s and 1950s there was a local surgeon with a similar arrangement. You almost always arrived to a waiting room with 20 people ahead of you. When your name finally was called you were ushered into another waiting room filled with the same 20 people! It was usually about a 30 minute wait after you finally arrived in the examining room. But this was very unusual for the time.
Until the 1960s, when one needed to see one's family doctor, one dropped into his office during “visiting hours,” usually two to four in the afternoon and seven to nine in the evening (except for Thursdays). If one were too ill to go to the office, one called him and he came to the house. I believe the cost was two dollars for an office visit and five dollars for a house call. You remember house calls.
At one time one of my sons was stung by a bee, and we discovered he was subject to anaphylactic shock! The treatment consisted of an injection of serum weekly for ten weeks. The doctor kept the serum in his refrigerator, and each week he gave my son his shot for a dollar!
Today if one needs to see the family practitioner, it requires an appointment. The wait is usually not more than ten or fifteen minutes, but the fee, your co-payment plus the insurance company payment, can run upwards of $70 for a ten minute visit. And you are lucky if you get ten minutes of his time, particularly if he is a member of a family group.
In the past, the family doctor performed minor surgery in his office, but not anymore. Unless your problem is very minor, he will probably send you to a specialist.
In 1949 I had a family doctor remove a marble-sized cyst from my wrist in his office. It cost me $35. Today's specialist would probably do the same job in a surgery center for several thousand dollars.
Yesterday the doctor prescribed cortisone shots for my knees,but he didn't actually administer the shots – he had his nurse do it. When I questioned it, she said the doctors don't do the on-hands work; that's the nurse's job. Well, that's probably several hundred dollars cheaper than if he did it.
How times have changed.

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