Sunday, December 8, 2013
By J.P. Devine
As I am constantly aware of how many of my readers are dependent on me for social, romantic, and especially medical, advice, I am dedicating today's column to a new and troubling practice in medical advances.
This comes to mind as I read about the new and exciting MaineGeneral Medical Center's new hospital blossoming on our central Maine doorstep, another breakthrough that will offer state of the art care for all of us. But something I just read in a recent edition of Time magazine concerns me, and I bring it to your attention.
In "Not So-Private Practice," writer Alice Park talks about the new "group checkup" being introduced around the country, and I'm wondering if this will be part of MaineGeneral's agenda?
Park writes about a growing number of doctors who are initiating group visits for routine physicals.
Group visits? What does that mean? Here's what it means:
"The percentage of U.S. family medicine practices offering group visits has doubled, from 6 percent to 13 percent, and with the Affordable Care Act coming in, 'medicine en masse' is becoming an attractive cost saver," Park said.
It seems that when we go to the doctor, consultations "are conducted as a group," like in the service, but this time with women added. This means that we will be talking about personal information in front of complete strangers.
In other words, you might be booked for said consultations with a group of people that includes: your tax accountant, butcher, pharmacist, the girl who bags your groceries. It might include (gasp!) your sixth-grade teacher.
It's being done to save what the doctors call "precious time." Their precious time? What about our precious time? Don't we pay all this money so that we can sit in those windowless rooms with all of those scary machines and whisper our problems to a single, caring ear?
Apparently it's going to work like this: Physicians will see up to a dozen patients at once for about 90 minutes. 90 minutes? I don't need 90 minutes. The physician's assistant does all the grunt work, blood pressure, weight check, etc. Then he comes in and looks in my eyes and ears and finishes up with the "finger" thing. Then I get the Hell out of there. Now, I might have to spend 90 minutes in this tiny room with a dozen other people, who all get one-on-one time with him culminating with a "group discussion chatting about every member's progress."
Say what? You mean my gardener, sixth-grade teacher and the barista at my Starbucks are going to discuss my progress? What is this, rehab? Can you imagine?
"J.P.," the barista says, "You say your diet plan is improving, but I'm the one who serves you that latte with all the whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on. I think you're fudging."
My U.S. Cellular clerk who will now know that I've been lying about how much weight I've lost. Heck, everyone will know I've been lying.
Am I to sit there in my underwear, sharing the progress of that annoying summer rash I just got over? Do I have to show it to everyone to share its "progress?"
And obviously, this is going to get expensive. We're all going to have to buy new fresh underwear, because this could get to be embarrassing. All of my favorite, worn soft white boxers got dumped in with two pairs of new red sox, and they're all bright pink. "That's J.P. Devine who always pretends to be so macho. Did you know he wears pink boxers?"
It's clear, Park adds, that sharing isn't for everyone. Are you kidding? We learned that in kindergarten when I wouldn't give Mary Lister my G block to complete GOD, so she took the O and threw it at me, hitting me in the forehead. I think I still have the scar. True story.
Sharing information? Remember guys, that includes data on your hemorrhoids and how many times you get up at night to go to the bathroom. One such doctor's office actually put up a board, listing each patient's progress. "Hey Jim, you get up how many times?"
Of course, all of this is hypothetical, and much of it is still on the drawing board. It will probably not be unisex exams ... I think. And does this mean that we'll bond with one another after a time and have grad-like reunions each year until we all pass? Where? In the local burger pub? 'Hey J.P., you can't eat those fries, remember your cholesterol number?" Fuggidagoudit.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.