Tuesday, February 08, 2005

vivi goes to the doctor

Well, that was painless.

To give you an idea of how painless, I think I need to explain, for the benefit of those of you who have never had the occasion to visit the doctor in the states, what going to the doctor used to entail.

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So, you arrive at the doctor's office a little before your appointed time. After you sign in, you are given a form to fill out - especially if it is your first time there. You fill in all your personal info, your insurance info, your family history, etc. It's usually a couple of pages long. I had one doctor who required you to sign a waiver everytime you visited. Then you bring the paperwork back to the receptionist, along with your insurance card and perhaps your identification card, to be copied and put in your file. Then you sit in the waiting room, which is the size of a small auditorium, and wait with the ten to twenty other patients (to be fair, there are usually several doctors in the same office).

If you're very lucky, you'll only have a few minutes to wait. It's not unusual to wait for half an hour, and I was always prepared to wait up to an hour for one particular doctor who always seemed to be running behind. I always brought a book.

Once you're called back to an examination room, a nurse will take your vital signs (weight, blood pressure, temperature) and then ask why you are visiting the doctor today. This information is written in a file and placed in a holder on the door of your room. She will also do any other lab work that needs to be done - give you the cup and point you to the bathroom, take a vial of blood for testing, etc. Then you wait some more. Again, if you're lucky, it will just be a few minutes, but I've waited upwards of half an hour in the examination room for the doctor.

Finally, the doctor arrives. He takes your file and knocks on the door before entering. You exchange pleasantries while he reads over what the nurse has written. Please keep in mind that there are up to four other examination rooms with patients in them waiting to see the doctor, always being rotated in and out. My regular doctor handled this wonderfully. When he was in the room with me, he was totally focused on me and why I was there. We always managed to fit in a little conversation about something outside of the visit - work or family life or something. My gyno was a different story, always frantically moving about because he had five other patients waiting to see him. I never got the nerve to say to him, "Look, I know you're backed up, but could you handle my ovaries with a little more care? Thanks."

So you've had your five minutes with the doctor, he gives you your prescriptions if needed, and you're done. You head back to the receptionist to pay for your visit (with my insurance, I had a "co-pay" in which I paid $15 per visit and the insurance picked up the rest).

Exhausting, no?

Maybe I was very lucky, but yesterday was a breeze. We arrived at the appointed time. I gave my name and we were invited to sit in the waiting room. I noted the very informative poster which explained why it is better to visit the doctor in his office than at your house. Yes, doctors still pay house calls here, though you'll likely pay through the nose for it.

After waiting five minutes, we were greeted by the doctor and invited to the office. Something to note here: our family doctor was not in yesterday, so a replacement doctor was there. Apparently this is a full time job, replacing doctors, and it's nice to know that you will see someone just as qualified as your regular doctor (though I can hear my mom freaking out about this: but they don't know my medical history!! For now, it wasn't important.)

So we went back to the office of the doctor. The office is just that: a desk, computer, file cabinet, etc. There is a small examination area tucked discreetly in the corner. Ah, this is how it should be done! None of this assembly line medicine I'm so used to! The doctor is focused soley on me! I think I like this!

We sat down in front of the desk. The doctor was extremely patient while I tried to explain why I was there in my could-be-better French. I gave her the paperwork of my old prescription, and as she was searching in the Big Book of Prescriptions, I gave her a little medical history of why I take that certain medicine (yes Mom, she recognized what I have). With Steph's help, I was able to answer all the questions in French. Once she found the exact match (score!), she invited me back to the examination area, where she took my blood pressure. And that's all.

Once the exam was over, she wrote out the prescription, wrote out the bill, we wrote her a check, and we were done. Usually, the doctor will send in the paperwork to your insurance company (where we will most likely be reimbursed 90% of what we paid), but because she was a replacement doctor, we took the paperwork and mailed it in ourselves today.

As far as the medicine itself goes, we stopped at the pharmacy on the way home. Often, birth control pills are free here, but because this was a different prescription, we were warned that we would have to pay something. It turned out we had to pay 25€€ for a three-month supply. Considering I paid upwards of $30 a month back home, we are quite pleased with the result.

All in all, I'm not so freaked out about going back to the doctor if something comes up. Steph is convinced that I could have managed on my own, and perhaps if I had been alone, it wouldn't have been too bad. But I'm glad he was there. Oh, and private note to Katia: I didn't get the lecture. Maybe because she was fluffier than me? ;)

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