This past week I actually had a GOOD HEALTH CARE EXPERIENCE in Miami! Well…kind of, unless you put it in too much context. Here’s the context we’ll dismiss for the sake of maintaining my warm & fuzzy feelings about my health care experience:
I had a really, really urgent need to see a doctor due to a bad ear infection that was causing me incapacitating pain. I’m talking the kind of pain that radiates to the reptilian parts of your brain and makes you want to chew off your arm. The kind of pain that makes you long for the caress of a rusty guillotine.
Fully aware I had less chance of landing an emergency appointment with my MD than of scoring a date with Megan Fox, I still called my primary care quack in hopes that he could see me right away.
After more than a decade of being shuffled from one Quack to another I’ve come to have zero faith in the South FL medical community, so I wasn’t surprised when Dr. Quack’s service told me he wasn’t seeing patients that day and that I should go to an emergency room. Sadly, that was the answer I was expecting. It did cheer me up a bit, though, to imagine Dr. Quack having a freak golfing accident involving a 9-iron.
Not too happy at the prospect of getting raped in the ER by having to fork over a $250 deductible for what would be a 4-minute consultation to prescribe some antibiotics (after surely waiting the requisite 4 or 5 hours to be seen), I thought I’d try one of those clinics that have set up shop in several area pharmacies, including Walgreen’s.
I have a Navarro’s near my place, but the clinic they opened with so much hoopla last year has been shuttered. So I went to a nearby Walgreen’s only to find out that not all of their locations have a “Take Care Clinic.” Fortunately, the folks at that Walgreen’s directed me to the nearest of their locations with a clinic, so off I went.
Upon arrival to the “Take Care Clinic’s” reception area, nicely tucked away in an unobtrusive corner of the Walgreen’s, I was greeted by a touch-screen (with a huge bottle of hand sanitizer next to it) where I was prompted to enter my name, birth date, address, phone number, insurance information and acknowledge a standard set of disclaimers. Fortunately they didn’t ask for my social security number or I would have been out of there. A few years ago my number got pinched and I’m pretty sure it was at a former Quack’s office – have you seen some of the minimum wage characters that work at these establishments and have access to all your sensitive data? Scary. Cleaning up the identity theft mess was a nightmare and maybe I’ll tell you about that one in another Surviving South Florida post.
Back to Walgreen’s. It was about 5:30 PM on Friday and the place was nearly empty. Yes! Five minutes after completing my electronic registration, a licensed nurse practitioner called me into a closet-sized, but well equipped and clean examining room. She methodically and thoroughly went through the checklist you’d expect from someone unfamiliar with your health history: allergies, family history, operations, weight, etc. and proceeded to take my temperature and blood pressure. The process lasted about 5 minutes. Then she carefully examined my nose, ears and throat and confirmed what I suspected: a severe ear infection. The nurse practitioner then proceeded to write me a prescription for antibiotics. I learned that although they aren’t quite MD’s, licensed nurse practitioners can legally prescribe medication and at this particular location, the nurse was even able to send the prescription electronically to the Walgreen’s pharmacy area just a few feet away. In the time it took me to walk over to the pharmacy, my prescription had been prepared and was was waiting for me. Yes! Generic antibiotic with minimum co-pay. Yes!
The visit to the Walgreen’s “Take Care Clinic” costs $65, but they accept most insurance plans, and with mine I ended up paying just $25 (plus the meds), which is what I would normally pay my primary care Quack for a visit on those rare days he’s fulfilling his Hippocratic oath instead of putzing around on the golf course.
For the convenience of NOT having to make an appointment, NOT having to wait hours in a waiting room, NOT having to provide your social security number and NOT having to make a separate trip to the pharmacy to get your prescription, this is one place that I think I’ll be frequenting more often. From the time I arrived until I was out the door no more than 25 minutes elapsed. That kind of efficiency is worth a lot to me!
Of course, there are still countless situations where one will have no recourse but to go to a “real” doctor. Dealing with doctors, their identity theft-savvy office clerks, the compassionate health insurance companies (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and the general health care meat-grinding machine is for the most part unavoidable. Especially as age begins to catch up with you.
If you’re lucky enough to have a Quack straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting count your blessings, my friend, and make sure to send him a holiday card and some homemade cookies every year. As for me, next time I have an ear infection you will find me getting my antibiotics at the Walgreen’s “Take Care Clinic,” unless it closes down like the one at Navarro’s, in which case you’ll find me chewing my arm off.
Note: I have no affiliation whatsoever to any company mentioned in this post.