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Thursday, January 05, 2012

If Doctor’s Were on Baseball Cards

(c) 2012 by Tom King

I just went through the process of helping my wife select a doctor for her new medical plan. Choosing a doctor is a pretty serious business. After all, this is a person who may someday have to look at your hoo-hah in order to tell you what’s wrong with it.

You don’t want to pick just anyone for that duty, I don’t care how many sheepskins are hanging on his or her office wall. 

I once went in for a surgery called a uvulopalatoplasty/ethmoidechtomy – a delightful little procedures where they jerk bits of you out through your nose, tear out your tonsils, adenoids and lop off your uvula – that dangling down bit at the back of your throat. This was supposed to cure my sleep apnea and snoring.

It did not.

Be that as it may, before the surgery, a surgical nurse or some similar sort of data collector interviewed me. His job, it seemed, was to determine my physical and mental state prior to surgery. I was pretty okay about the thing. I liked Dr. Shea, the surgeon. He seemed competent enough and the surgery was an hour-long outpatient procedure. Unfortunately, I chose this point in the process to quip.

A word to folk going into surgery. You aren’t supposed to be funny. Hospital data collectors don’t understand why anyone would make pithy remarks before a surgical procedure. I think hospitals data collectors must have to undergo a funnyboneectomy or something before they get the job.

“I think you guys should put all your surgeons,” I quipped, “On, like baseball cards or something. You know, list their batting averages for their surgeries. I’d really like to know how many people survive and how many they kill. Seasonal averages would be okay.”

The hospital data collector had gone pale.

“I just think it would help you to know how worried you should be, you know, like you might want to get your affairs in order and stuff,” I explained helpfully.

The hospital data collector scribbled furiously, then folded the data collection sheet and tucked it in my chart. “Excuse me,” he said and stepped out of the room.

Well, being of a curious bent, I scooted over to the table and flipped open the chart. “Patient appears agitated,” the data collector had written at the bottom of the intake form. Later the nurse returned to collect me and double-checked the chart.

“Come with me,” she said casting an appraising eye over me. I followed meekly. She weighed me, then gave me a handful of pills, stretched me out on the gurney and slipped a mask over my face. I remember the anesthetist coming in and fiddling with some valves.

“Count backwards from one hundred,” he commanded.

“Sure,” I said light-heartedly. “One hun……………….” That’s all I remember till I woke with the curious sensation that someone had touched off a stick of dynamite in my head.

I still think the baseball cards thing was a good idea. Group Health, my wife’s HMO has a side by side comparison thing that gives you the physicians educational background, his philosophy of medical practice and a list of hobbies and pastimes (I like walking on the beach, playing the zither and am a fourth level Voodoo priestess).

Still, though it's nice to know some personal tidbits about your doc, there's nothing yet in the info pages about won/loss rates, saves, miraculous recoveries or how the doc feels about prescribing Valium, Oxycodone or medical marijuana, number of malpractice suits in the past year – useful things of that sort. It would certainly help us anxiety-ridden potential patients.

A Surgical Batting Average (SBA) of 352 would mean something. I mean, hey, I've got to give the docs my cholesterol count. Fair's fair.

I'm just sayin'.


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