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Does Your Doctor Have Time To Think About You?

At the New York Times’ City Room Blog, Joel Cohen writes:

my wife and I are convinced that all medical students should have to pass Overbooking 101 before they can become doctors.Again and again, we arrive at a doctor’s aptly named waiting room on or before the scheduled time, only to learn that three or four others sitting there have been given the same appointment.

He says doctors need to understand the impact of this on their patients.  I agree, but not just because it’s annoying.

A typical doctor sees thirty patients a day.  Some see even more.

Reflect on that math.  If your doctor sees 30 patients a day, that’s 150 a week, 600 a month, maybe 7,000 a year.

It means that if it’s been even two months since you last saw your doctor, he has probably seen more than a thousand people since your last visit.  It’s why there’s often that moment of disconnect when you see your doctor.  You’re living every day with the fears and anxieties of your medical condition, but your doctor can’t quite place which one of the worried patients you are.  So you have to remind him why he ordered that extra test a few months ago, why you switched medications the last time you were there, how he already ruled out that possibility the last time he saw you.

We all work through these awkward moments- but they are a symptom of a more serious problem.

Doctors who are starved for time in a patient visit are also starved for time to think about their patients, reflect on what is wrong, and find good solutions.  It’s why studies show such alarming rates of incorrect diagnosis and treatment.

But what else can a doctor do?  There’s a room full of patients outside.  Just like there was yesterday, and just like there will be tomorrow.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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