Here’s the problem: Dr. Margo is attentive, empathetic and sincerely concerned about my health come my annual check-ups. I feel good that she’s hanging on every word I say and writing it down. I wish my wife and kids would do the same.
Margo’s a fantastic listener because hospital medicine is moving away from fee for services. They are trying to compensate doctors for keeping patients healthy rather than running up procedures and services. More doctors paid to maintain happy healthy patents means they listen. Margo even puts up with my entire check list.
What’s wrong with that picture?
It sends the wrong message to us chronic complainers. Before retirement, troublesome joints, insomnia or itches were but inconsequential thoughts- No need for a check-list. But with my new found luxury of free time, I now devote hours to medical minutia. I even rehearse my response to Margo before going in, sometimes even months before the appointment.
The doctor will ask, “And how are you feeling today?” If I had arrived by ambulance and blaring siren it would be different, abut actually I’m quite healthy. There’s nothing that calls for medical attention, but this is the one day of the year when someone will listen.
Yes, I obsess.
The obsessing goes beyond Doctor Margo. A coconspirator is my own wife. She is too polite to tell me that at 81 I have too much free time on my hands. It’s only natural for thoughts of well being fill the vacuum in my brain.
In polite society an organ recital is church music. But here it’s a breathless summary of all that’s wrong with my 78 organs. Nobody want to hear that recital but still Margo endures.
The military has an efficient solution to the organ recital problem: Before you enter to the doctor’s office the prescription is ready-“Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” In private practice that would be frowned upon because we demand transparency. To solve the obsessing patient problems, how can the physician be both honest and empathetic?
Could they suggest: “In your 80’s you are supposed ot have complaints like that.”
Honest? Yes but lacking empathy. What if the Doctor offered us hypochondriac complainers a suggestion:
“Your problem appears to be in your mind. My prescription is take two shots of whiskey and perform your organ recital for the bartender.”
That’s a solution to the problem we could all drink to.