Thursday, February 7, 2013

Single, Married, or MYOB?

by Pa Rock
Privacy Fanatic

Having recently arrived back in the States after two years overseas where I had minimal medical care, I have been busy scheduling appointments with doctors of various stripes to get my medical appraisals up to date.  While seeing doctors can be informative and even necessary at times, it is seldom a pleasant process – and, as I have been reminded of late, just getting past the receptionist’s desk and into see the actual physician can be a challenging hurdle.

Today, for instance, I was attempting to speak to a medical receptionist on the telephone when I finally had to interrupt her patronizing spew and tell her (politely, of course) to shut the hell up and let me finish asking my question.  (Usually getting an actual human being on the phone is an improvement over listening to the canned answering machine responses and selections designed to drive away phone traffic – but not always.)

Actually getting in to see a physician requires tackling a bundle of paperwork – usually between ten and twenty pages.  Each doctor has their own version of the paperwork and, of course, cannot share with other medical providers.  I am usually asked to be there fifteen minutes early on the day of the initial appointment in order to do the paperwork, but I always manage to get arrive at least an hour ahead of time.  (I like to put some thought into the answers that I provide.)

Having been a medical provider myself, I understand why doctors need certain information.  The patient’s name, address, date of birth, and a picture i.d. can all be helpful in insuring that they are treating the right individual.  Insurance information is handy for getting paid for their services, and a complete medical history can also save time and eliminate unnecessary repetition of tests and procedures.

Every form that I have encountered also asks for the name and phone number of a person to notify in the event of an emergency.  That, too, is a fair question.  And I happily sign releases to provide information to my other doctors.

But that, along with the person’s “vitals,” is about all of the information that a doctor needs in order to commence treatment.   What most physicians do not need is to know a person's “marital status.”  The only medical provider with a need to know that might be a mental health type, and a good mental health person will find out all about a person’s living situation during an intake interview.  Also, any doctor who suspects domestic abuse should get into the relationship weeds and ask those questions directly.  Very few people volunteer that their spouse is abusive on a personal history form.

A dentist, endocrinologist, or podiatrist has no need what’s-so-ever to know if the patient is single or married, and they certainly don’t need to know whether the patient is separated, divorced, or widowed.

Being old and crabby (and divorced) I automatically check “single” if I am feeling charitable and worrying about getting into Heaven, but on those days when I am feeling less than charitable, I leave that whole section blank and glare at the poor receptionist in a way that challenges her (or him) to make my day.

If America’s medical community needs to know every scrap of our personal information, they should go out and buy it.  That’s the American way!

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