As I finished the endless clicking, the clinic day came to a close.
Clicking to begin and end phone visits.
Clicking to get on and off Zoom visits.
The endless video game clicking that is life as a physician documenting electronic health records. Too bad I have never been a gamer; maybe some who are can imagine amidst all of this they are in a scene from a Nintendo or Playstation classic.
Clicking boxes to satisfy coders, billers. Clicking to verify my RVUs and my worth as a cog in the health system machine. Clicking to keep insurance companies from refusing to pay.
Clicking to help my patients? Not sure.
I sighed with exhaustion.
100 percent show rate. Again.
I whisper, “I miss the no-shows from pre-COVID,” hoping that Hippocrates doesn’t hear me. (If a well-intentioned, all-alone pandemic physician whispers this in the woods, does the tree that falls actually make a sound?)
In primary care, those no-shows gave us a chance to catch our breath. They afforded us a break from all the clicking. A chance to rush to the bathroom or say hi to a colleague.
Now, there is no such reprieve. We sit and see one after another. Often, a day in the clinic goes by without even a conversation with anyone beyond my medical assistant. I barely move, mustering a few hundred steps in a full workday.
I try to convince ourselves that we are doing “real” medicine, having a “real” connection.
The only thing “real,” at least at the end of this day, is two hands tired from clicking.
You know, it is not no-shows that I really miss.
I miss seeing real people, including that tense excitement before entering the patient room, neither doctor nor patient quite sure what to expect.
I miss real in-person moments with my patients – tears of joy and sadness shed together. Tears just don’t happen the same in virtual visits.
I miss the chance to gently place the stethoscope bell on the elder’s chest.
I miss checking the infant’s rash to then reassure parents it isn’t life-threatening like Google had told them it was.
I wonder if my patients miss seeing me nearly as much as I miss seeing them.
Anthony Fleg is a family physician who blogs at Writing to Heal.
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