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Reducing patient suffering caused not by disease but by medical care itself has become a medical goal.

"Suffer" is a word that doctors just don't use. Medical journals even instruct authors not to refer to patients who "suffer" a disease, Writers are told to say that patients "have" a disease.

The suffering inflicted on patients, however, is not always just their health conditions. Sometimes health treatment can be just as bad. It can take several weeks to see a primary health provider, and several months to see a specialist. If the doctor cancels your appointment, you are paid nothing. If you cancel your appointment less than 24 hours before you are expected, you may have to pay a fee of $25 to $100. 

Insurance companies often require preapproval of visits and services anywhere but the primary care provider's office. They can "forget" that you had approvals and send you a bill anyway. Medications don't work the same way for every patient, and it's not unusual at all to pick up a nosocomial (healthcare-associated) infection in a hospital or clinic. The Centers for Disease Control report that one any given day, one in 25 hospital patients in the United States has an infection they did not have before they entered hospital care. In the US, 722 thousand people get infections in hospitals every year, and 72 thousand people die of them. You go into the hospital to get well, and it kills you.

My Own Experience With "Medical Suffering"

I myself recently had to replace my primary care provider. For over a year, I had been putting up with nurses aides who did not speak enough English even to be polite, much less to understand complex medical issues, or understand what I was telling them about my reasons for the visit. It didn't make any difference whether I spoke to them in English or in their primary lanagage, Spanish. Every single visit (there were 11) the bill for my care had been sent to the wrong billing department with the insurance company. My doctor only got paid after I asked my insurance company to pay him, sometimes two or three times. His office never expressed any appreciation for my help.

After going to this doctor for about a year, I had a mild heart attack, and needed to let my doctor know that I was in the hospital to get insurance approvals. I called and was hung up on. My insurance company's care coordinator called and was hung up on. When both the insurance company and I finally got through, several days later, after I was in the hospital, we were botrh informed "It was your fault. We were here in the breakroom with the phones and intercom turned off." I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, and no one was at the front desk. Patients kept coming in, with no one meeting us. I left a note for my doctor to call me when he was ready to see patients. Three hours after my scheduled appointment, the nurse called and said, "It was your fault. You could have (jumped over the counter and looked for) the break room."

This was par for the course. For months I had been waiting up to three hours to see the doctor after my scheduled appointment time because "we are switching to electronic records."

I fired my doctor.That meant I had to get medical care in an emergency room that kept me waiting for nine hours, at which point I gave up. Then I found a responsible doctor who has a reputation for keeping appointments.  After eighteen months of frustration, I found a professionally oriented medical practice.

Do Doctors Really Care?

My primary care provider's practice was staffed by a hospital that provided him with the nurses fronm hell. He's not a bad doctor. He just had lousy staff he has done nothing about. However, many other doctors recognize the importance of treating patients like people.

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