TL;DR – you know what zoom is, this is more about how this worked for me when I felt it wouldn’t. File under forced digital lifestyle / get off my lawn / unexpectedly good / now a fan.
For how much time I spend online and how little I like talking to people I don’t know well in person I’ve always had a weird thing of wanting a doctor that can, I don’t know, be in the same room. While I still do, this was unexpected.
Below are several hundred words which are just my experiences. No real technology insights here. You read to the end and then complain you want your time back, that’s on you man.
Three years back my primary care physician, in an attempt to treat a sleeping disorder, prescribed a sleeping/restless leg syndrome medication that made me make severely questionable choices in life. I also wasn’t sleeping, I was just forgetting how tired I was.
Shortly after quitting due to side effects I had severe depression and encountered a wall of resistance getting back in to talk about it by his staff. Basically they had a patient saying “I quit the drug as advised, I’m now the most depressed I’ve ever been,” and was told that “everyone gets the blahs sometimes” by the jackass gatekeepers my doctor employed.
They’re so bad historically he even has advised his patients to tell them “this is important, the doctor has requested you take this seriously,” and he still hadn’t gotten rid of them or trained them to not be jerks.
That crazy depression passed, took a couple of months, but deciding it was time to get a new PCP that I could actually get to see in a somewhat reasonable time and wouldn’t have gatekeepers who turn away someone having an adverse mental reaction to medication seemed like a fine and dandy time.
Just to be clear – it was significantly worse than represented here and involved three of their employees, two of which forgot to schedule me / call me back, a two week long attempt to get in, so lemme assure you it was some medical grade incompetence that lead me to leave my 30+ year PCP.
The near present
So in December of 2019 I started the search (nothing was wrong at the time, just wanted someone lined up) – weird little thing in early 2020 happened and in-person visits to new physicians became next to impossible. I tried again half-heartedly in 2021 to find something but people were going back in and the wait times were freaking months for where I wanted to go and where I didn’t want to go was about the same.
In late 2021, after getting a blood pressure reading that read more like the temperature to slow cook chicken at, I decided it was finally time to make a push and schedule with a local group I wanted, and as things went I chose about 40 options for PCPs and there was one who had an appointment in January of 2022. I looked through March and I think there was another of the group available but dang.
Paul, somewhat active for the past 9 months, vegetarian, fluffy, has high blood pressure at the moment. 50+ higher than usual. High enough that getting a life insurance policy they came back to re-take the blood pressure readings and then said “you need to fix that, we’re not going to record this, fix it, reschedule.”
I didn’t want telehealth, I wanted someone I could talk to face to face. I finally got an in person appointment. The snowstorm had other plans. Telehealth it was.
The distant future: The Year 2000
We all know what a zoom call is by this point. You know what happens there. What’s interesting though (at least to me,) is that in my home and with my stuff I didn’t have to have a piece of paper sitting in front of me with a list of everything wrong and a baggie containing anything I might need to show a doctor.
I had at my hands everything I’d eaten for 6+ months on screen in my Fitbit app. I had heartrate info. Exercise logs. The vitamins I take were a room away. I didn’t need this info, but I had it and didn’t have to bag it or guess at it if needed.
I happen to have a Withings Scanwatch and a Fitbit so if I needed an ECG it was there. I didn’t. Pulse rate, SpO2, yadda yadda. I don’t expect people to wear two digital watches, but man the info from each is driving me nuts I don’t have the features in both. I had notepad opened in the background.
There wasn’t a waiting room, there wasn’t the second room they make to move you, and if I’m not mistaken the new PCP was there a couple of minutes prior to being expected.
I didn’t spend 30 minutes going to talk to someone who only needed me there for a weight, heartrate, and height measurement.
I ended up with some blood tests ordered and that was a little bit of a pain bleeding into a cup and pouring it on a keyboard but you know you do what you gotta do.
Nah, blood tests were scheduled for a location about a mile from me. I walked in on my own time, they had me on a list, waited around for about 5 minutes and then was taken back. In and out in 20.
About two hours later I had a blood test result sitting in the portal. Throughout the day test after test came back and I was able to Dr Google it as testing revealed the deep dark secret that I’m evidently pretty normal other than that blood pressure and a slightly low vit D level.
I was prescribed some blood pressure medication, drove a hot half mile to a pharmacy, and was in and out in 5.
Total drive time was about 17 minutes. Time outside my house under an hour.
Now, to be clear, I’m not in a crazy ass rush but my average doctor’s visit, that’s blocking off half a work day generally. I could have done it at work had we not been closed to do snowmageddon.
Should be noted, at this point we were closed / I was working remote but the roads and everything was fine which is why I got to the blood suckers the next day and pharmacy with no issue.
Not my first rodeo
Should be noted while this was my first meeting with my new PCP and my first with this group, I do a yearly checkin due to the CPAP which was the same basic thing. Main difference is the lack of blood panels, prescription, etc.