When our health system works, it’s unbeatable

Today was a great day.  Despite the shortcomings of our medical complex, when it works right, it is a beautiful thing.  Actually, it’s not just beautiful, it can deliver the best care available anywhere in the world.  I know.  I saw it happen today.

Today, Mr. X presented with a troublesome history and an even more threatening physical exam.  I was afraid that the disease I was about to diagnose would be a devastating one.  After discussing my concerns with my patient, I ordered the diagnostic test I expected would help me make an accurate diagnosis.  Luckily, his insurance company did not put up a “prior authorization” roadblock, so I was free to proceed with scheduling his test.

The hospital responded to my patient’s needs with an immediate appointment and quickly performed the test.  Within minutes, the radiologist was on the phone confirming my suspicions and requesting a subsequent test to further classify the problem and sharpen the diagnosis.  The fact that I got the first test done and interpreted in an hour and a half was miraculous.  I informed Mr. X that he would need further testing and that I would help him schedule it as soon as possible.

While I was on the phone with Mr. X, the manager of the radiology department was calling on the other line.  She informed me that she had an immediate availability for the next exam and would get me the results ASAP.  Again, within a few hours, Mr. X and his spouse were seated in my conference room, anxiously awaiting the results of the testing.

Fear is a horrible disease and my patient and his spouse were steeped in fear and worry.  While I was talking to the couple, the radiologist called.  My patient would need the skills of a specialist, the prognosis was excellent and the diagnosis was most probably NOT cancer.

Things could not have gone any better.  The patient and hospital moved quickly to delineate what the problem was and come up with a solution.  The hospital’s x-ray department excelled beyond all expectations!  Thanks, guys.

To make my day perfect, the specialist’s office also stepped up in a big way.  Mr. X will see the specialist in the morning.  Thirty six hours, start to finish is unbeatable.  So, say what you will about our medical system, but understand that when it works, it is unbeatable.

Stewart Segal is a family physician who blogs at Livewellthy.org.

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