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Health Care: Back to Grade School with Compare and Contrast

I went to my doctor on Wednesday.

No, not the local public clinic.  No, not a Doc-in-a-Box.  I went to my General Practitioner (also known as “Family Doctor”).  I found my experience strangely profound.  You see, I’d recently watched Steven Crowder’s video on Canadian Health Care.  If you haven’t seen it and aren’t interested in watching (you should watch it), I’ll tell you how it starts.

In said video, Steve goes to Canada to visit some friends and experience the Canadian Health System.  Steve and his Canadian buddy go to the local clinic looking for care for an injured wrist.  Perhaps it’s broken, or just strained.  It’s not a real injury, so it’s not important.  The important point was, they couldn’t get into a clinic on Sunday. When they went to the hospital ER, Steven and his friend were told to take a number to see a nurse.  The nurse took the case history and told them to wait for a doctor.  Another patient with a broken clavicle waited five hours.  Another man waiting for penecilin had been waiting for nine hours.

The next day at the clinic, (changing their experience to “needing a blood test”) they find out that even getting a family doctor in Canada is a bit of a chore.

Now, compare my experience:

Having felt pain in my thumb and wrist for a week, I finally decided I’d go see a doctor and find out what was wrong with me.  It was minor pain and certainly not dibilitating, but it was annoying enough and I wanted to see what was up.

Here’s where things get really interesting: I have private insurance through my employer.  Though this insurance, I found a General Practicioner (or again, “family doctor”) near my home that I could go to when I get the flu or what-have-you.  So Tuesday I call the doctor’s office during lunch, and he had a slot available so they asked if I’d like to see him at 3:45pm that day.  Not the following day.  Not “wait in line.”  The same day.  Having responsibilities about that time, I asked for another time, and they suggested 10:30 the next morning.  Fair enough.

If I’d had a more emergent case, I could have gone to any of a number of local hospitals, clinics, Doc-in-a-Box, other General Practitioners, or even an orthopedic specialist.  The pain not being severe, I chose to wait for my doctor the following morning.  On weekends, clinics, hospitals and Doc-in-a-Box locations were available to me.

I arrived about five minutes late for my appointment due to traffic.  There was no wait.  I sat in a chair for two minutes while they pulled my file (I’ve been there twice before) and I was shown into an examination room.  Two minutes later, as I feebly attempted to Twitter about the idiots on the road that morning, my doctor came in.  In just a few minutes, he did an examination and some other tests.

As suspected, at 28 years of age, I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

It’s early enough that I may simply have irritation and need to adjust my lifestyle and habits, therefore avoiding full-scale damage requiring strong medications and/or surgery.  We don’t know yet.  I was advised to rest (as in not type–fat chance of that), given some stretching exercises to do, take anti-inflamatories and ice my wrist.  Taking up correct posture and getting an orthopedic brace would also be helpful.  He printed some pages from WebMD for me and recommended another website.  Finally, he recommended a local orthopedic practice he had worked with in the past.

Before leaving, we chatted a bit.  He asked how some of my other health issues had progressed, and we talked a bit about little funny things.  He wished me goodbye and welcomed his next patient.

The whole thing took 25 minutes and cost me a $15 co-pay.  I was back at work before Noon.

Oh yeah. That part in the video about it taking years to get a family doctor and perhaps needing to go to other cities to find one? I got to choose from a long list of available physicians and was able to view patient ratings of the doctors and clinics in my area.  The first visit, I didn’t have to wait years to get a doctor, but simply made an appointment.  Oh, and waiting 17.3 weeks to see a specialist? Last year, I had to wait to see a podiatrist. I waited three days.

Now, compare my experience with the Canadian experience from the video.

So now it’s back to Grade School.  In second or third grade (maybe earlier), we all learned to compare and contrast.  So, compare: How were the systems similar?  Contrast: How were they different?

Similarities: Clinics. Specialists. Family Doctors. Nurses. Hospitals. Tests. Treatments. Medications.

Differences: Wait times. Choice. Access. Familiarity. Friendliness.

Now, which system was faster, more efficient and resulted in a better health outcome?

Cross posted at Seeking Liberty.

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