Looking for a Doctor

Guest Post by Esther Cohen

Many people I know, of every age and proclivity, are looking for a new doctor. Even if they have one already.

A good doctor’s not easy to find. We have, many of us, moved away from the kindly-ish all knowing childhood variety (mine was my Uncle Jack. A large man. No one even Wife Fayette would question his dictums. Health or otherwise). Today we inhabit another universe, where wellness is used every other sentence and Dr. Oz is on TV every single day with advice, where yoga and meditation are part of the common parlance, and many can pronounce ayurveda. What it means is another story, but still.

I’m on the search myself. Here’s what’s on my criteria list: kind, funny, non-invasive (a newish term). Not too test oriented. Talks and listens. Doesn’t make you wait for hours. Takes my insurance. Calls back in a reasonable time period. Has a receptionist who would not be mistaken for Goebels or Goering.

Last week I tried two different candidates: beautiful Indian woman and an overweight 53 year old Jewish man.

The woman, Dr. R., was in an ugly space. (So was he. Aesthetics are not a requirement, though they’d be nice. ) But Roy, the man who met me at her door, Dr. R’s yoga and breathing instructor, was one of the best looking people of all time. He looked as though he could do a quick headstand and maybe teach me too.

Dr. R. sees her patients in the dark. No lights, really. She believes the dark is meditative. I could see her enough to know she too is beautiful. She said Indians believe (she does, anyway) that from 50 on we’re on the other side. She said I could take four kinds of herbs, and coat my skin daily with sesame oil, to hold off my inevitable drying out. Oddly enough, I bought the herbs. I’m not sure why. Conditioning? She also said I should never eat broccoli for lunch. I never do, but on the Dr. R. visiting day, in mild defiance, I ate a Chinese lunch: broccoli in garlic sauce.

Then I went to Dr. P., for my eyes. Even though he’s an eye doctor, Dr. Ps office looks pretty bad. His walls are a color that isn’t a real color – beige-ish, and his paintings are part of the Day’s Inn school – ubiquitous boat on ubiquitous wave. Dr. P., though, was more or less the ideal. He seems to have maximum eye information, but he didn’t find it necessary to recite all the facts. He answered questions and asked a few. Even his receptionist seemed ok. Before handing me the requisite clipboard with questions (wouldn’t it be great if they asked a question like How Do You Feel?) she said Welcome.

I liked Dr. P. enough to ask the question I’ve asked everyone, more or less. Can you recommend an internist? Someone like you, I said. Forget it, he responded. Doesn’t exist. I guess the search continues.

I met a woman in the elevator today. A stranger. Coming from a visit from a new doctor. Someone she’d never met before. How was it? I asked.
Could have been better, she said.

An Update: The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Meeting in New York

After urging readers to attend the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) daytime meetings in New York on Monday and Tuesday of this week, I have to say that after attending day 1, I was disappointed. That’s because it turned out to be primarily a business meeting with a mandatory public invite because PCORI is federally funded.

Members of the audience sat passively in the audience because they were not part of the PCORI Board of Governors. Therefore, plenty of the discussion went on as if we were not there. You may as well have been behind glass. No agenda or handouts were available on site for the audience, but I was told that materials were posted on the PCORI website the day before.

The day’s events were webcast, but the webcast is no longer available. A public comment period was part of  both days. Most commenters in the Monday session pressed for inclusion in the work that follows.

I don’t fault PCORI for the way that the day unfolded. The group is just beginning. And I regret that I was unable to make the evening discussion forum, which was set up for public discussion.

I was impressed that some of the Board of Governors went out of their way to engage participants during the breaks, promising to move towards inclusion of the public. I have hopes that if PCORI involved the public and patients in a meaningful way, and from the outset, perhaps health care research would focus more on what matters to patients, not what researchers assume should matter to patients.

Involving patients early on would also have a more far-reaching societal benefit: more Americans would see firsthand the potential of healthcare research and healthcare reform to work for them.

Reminder: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Seeks Public Comment on What Matters to Patients

Designing healthcare research with what matters to patients is a relatively new concept in healthcare research. If the healthcare reformers who envisaged what is called “patient-centered outcomes research” truly want to hear from patients and the public, then tomorrow’s meeting  in New York of the Board of Governors of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (aka PCORI), soliciting public comment on research priorities will be a seachange in healthcare research.

It would be great if you went if you went and offered your thoughts on research priorities.  Let researchers know about the gaps in care and practice that you have experienced and make a case for funding research into those areas.

Again, here are the details:

This Monday and Tuesday, May 16-17, 2011, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute Board of Governors Meeting will be held at the

Millennium Broadway Hotel

145 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036-4012

Draft Agenda

Monday, May 16, 2011

1:00-1:10 pm Welcome and Approval of Jan. Board Meeting Meeting Minutes

1:10-1:45 pm Presentation and Discussion of Mission Statement and Logo

1:45-3:15 pm Program Development Committee Report

3:15-3:30 pm Break

3:30 to 4:00 pm Public Comment Period

4:00 to 5:30 pm Methodology Committee Report

5:30 pm Adjournment

Discussion Forum Monday evening

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

8:00 – 8:45 am Finance and Administration Committee Report

8:45 – 9:15 am Consideration of and Vote on Budget

9:15—9:45 am Public Comment Period

9:45 – 10:15 am Break

10:15-11:30 am Public Affairs and Communications Committee Report

11:30-11:45 am Wrap-Up and AdjournmentAll of the  sessions are open to the public. Individuals only need to RSVP to the evening session. If you want to issue a public comment on the day of the event, you can sign up to speak on-site the day of the event or can provide PCORI advance notice of their intent to speak by emailing info@pcori.org.

Hope you all had a great weekend! Give me a shout if you are there, planning to go, or if you cannot make it and have something that you want them to know. You can raise it in a tweet to me at lauranewmanny or via email at patientpov “dot” gmail “dot” com.


WordCount Blogathon Opens Door to Unusual Patient Stories

On May 1, I joined the Word Count Blogathon, and already, I am meeting bloggers who have amazing stories to tell about the healthcare system. Among the stories that I hope to share with you are the following:

  • What happens when a deaf woman gets care in a hospital;
  • How a support group helps women have a vaginal birth after a cesarean section;
  • How a person is managing with rheumatoid arthritis;
  • What gets lost in translation when a patient does not speak English;
  • How a husband and wife face gender reassignment surgery;
  • A young woman who is starting public health school in the fall;
  • How a parent deals with mental health issues with her kids.

I am thrilled that these stories are fresh and important accounts of what transpires in our healthcare system. Some bloggers will be guest bloggers here and I will swap posts with them, other stories, I will tell.

This post is short. Writing the macular degeneration drug story took a lot of energy and I have to pace myself. Since I am aiming to post each day this month, you can expect a few stories like that each week, but certainly not every day. I am also interested in any stories that you have to tell.