Frustrated and in pain, I sought an opinion from a specialist, who prescribed yet another set of antibiotics.' I was desperate and thought, "This has to work."' Alas, the infection returned and he referred me to a different specialist.'
This time, I wasn't going to leave any stone unturned.' I wrote down all the behavioral changes I'd made, put together a timeline of the infections, and made a list of all the prescriptions I'd tried and questions to ask.
After my physical exam, I told this new specialist that I had a few questions and pulled the pieces of paper out of my bag. He stared at me blankly for a moment and checked his watch.' He said he didn't need to know what approaches had been unsuccessful in the past, so I proceeded with just my questions.' He checked his watch again and responded briefly to each.' After about fifteen minutes all my questions had been answered, however begrudgingly.
A few days later, I got the bill for my appointment.' The office had billed me for an extended consultation at a hefty price.' Confused, I called to dispute the charges, but they wouldn't budge. ' Since I was on my college's health insurance plan, I ended up paying for the visit out-of-pocket.
How could I have known I would be charged double?' I hadn't had much experience with health care to that point.' I had interpreted the frequent glances at his watch as impatience, not as tracking the billable time.' Besides, the appointment didn't seem unduly long to me.'
I didn't realize at the time that the average physician visit is about 16 minutes.' But that's average ' sometimes more, sometimes less.' I guess I thought there would be extra time allotted since I had spent the last two and half years making my way through doctors and prescriptions.' He was supposed to have the answers, I thought.' Logically, wouldn't my conversation with him be somewhat in-depth?' In-depth is what I expected from a specialist.'
We're encouraged to engage in our health care and with our health care providers, but our participation takes time.' If we make our lists and ask the right questions, should we expect to pay extra to participate?' And if so, then give me options: email consultations, helpful online resources or research, and advance notice of fees seem like small offerings to ease costs ' both of time and money ' both scarce resources for patients and physicians alike.