This is a morality tale. It’s about trust and medicine and more.
This morning I was trying to figure out what’s happening with Morning Joe? Mika looks mad all the time, and Joe is always elsewhere, thankfully in a split screen from time to time with his audio turned off. When I heard this health writer talk about the rule of 7. He heard a drug rep say that it usually takes 7 visits, face to face, with a doctor in his/her office, before said doctor will trust them…in other words they need to be able to talk about their kids’ soccer games so that the rep can pitch his reasons for prescribing their high priced drug over another. At least that was what I inferred from his use of the word “trust.”
This was an aside, they were talking about the low polling numbers for Obamacare at the moment, but of course Joe had to complain about doctors in general on their iPhones while dealing with patients. About not listening to their patients, about young doctors not looking them in the eyes. Fear and loathing in medicine, that’s the GOP war cry. But let’s extrapolate. If you need to see someone 7 times before they can trust you, maybe a patient also needs to see their doctor 7 times before the patient can trust the doctor?
I didn’t want to write about this, but my MIL Ada thinks I should. She is a lively, active octogenarian. She is still working as a marriage counselor, and traveling the world, but she’s been feeling tired lately, getting leg cramps, and hates to complain. Let it be said, when Ada visits us it’s a whirlwind of activity and her home is usually teeming with friends “dropping by.” So her base level for “tired” may mean she only had one big event this weekend so she decided to clean the refrigerator and invite people over for a pool party. But a recent doctor visit had her worried, her liver enzymes looked high.
So Ada gathered all her drugs in a basket, and went to her pharmacist for a look-see. It turns out, she was double-dosing on a cholesterol medicine. Her internist had taken her off the name brand Lipitor, and prescribed a generic, only Lipitor kept getting refilled right alongside the same exact drug in its generic name!
This, her trusty second opinion doctor/son Bob told her, accounts for the liver problem and her tiredness. And, Bob told her, he sees this ALL THE TIME in the ER. Elderly patients on a cornucopia of drugs complaining of symptoms that to a trained acute care specialist look like drug interactions…and so in ERs all across the country, doctors and nurses are sifting through a patient’s drug record right alongside caring for trauma and stroke and heart attack patients.
I’ve learned that doctors rarely “write” prescriptions anymore – they are emailed to a pharmacy. So where did this system fail my Mother-in-Law? Was Lipitor taken off the doctor’s list of drugs, or did the pharmacist, or pharmacy tech who read the new email Rx just add the generic without thinking? How many other patients are suffering?
Technology is supposed to add fail-safe measures to health care, but how do you build “trust” with a machine? Maybe, just maybe talking and listening to a patient is more important. Here is Great Grandmother Ada, with her “little” doctor.
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