What the Hell Happened to the Doctor’s Office?

If you need medical attention, the ER and CVS might just be your only options

When I was a kid, doctors still made house calls. I know, I must be a hundred years old, right? But, I’m not. It wasn’t all that long ago that the doctor would, in fact, come to your house to see a sick child. Now Moms, just think about that for a second. How sweet was that? The doctor would actually come to your home and examine your sick child in her own bed, leave some meds and do it all with an unhurried demeanor, a caring bedside manner, a warm smile and sincere empathy for your child’s well-being. You gave him some money or a check, and he wrote it down in a book when he got back to the office. Can’t imagine it, can you?

My daughter had a sore throat and some aching ears this week. I called her doctor’s office and asked if anyone in the practice had a slot for a “sick visit” that day. Anyone. I wasn’t being picky about which medical professional could see her; either of the two physicians, the physician’s assistant, the nurse practitioner, the nurse, the nurse’s aid, hell, I’d have brought her in to see the receptionist! I figure she’s been hanging around long enough to pick up some diagnostic skills. Nope, no way. “Nothing available today. Call tomorrow at 8:30 and we’ll know if we have any cancellations for the day.”

”What do you suggest I do with my sick child? I mean, you’re her doctor’s office. Do you think I should take her to the emergency room and hope that the sore throat and swollen glands somehow beat out the severed leg, three heart attacks and brain hemorrhage that have arrived in the seven hours we’ve been sitting there? Huh, what do you think DOCTOR?!”

We have a healthcare system that doesn’t want me to use the ER for routine health care, and I shouldn’t. You shouldn’t either. No one should, but for differing reasons we are sometimes forced to and that’s just not right. The ER should have no sniffling noses or sore throats—only severed appendages, broken bones, damaged hearts and similar traumas to body and mind.

So what happened to the doctor’s office? Where’s the middle man? Shouldn’t there be something between “the picture of health” and “ready, clear”? The doctor’s office is set up to take scheduled visits—what we know as “well visits”—and follow-up visits, which I guess are for when the doctor gets a chance to take a look at what they did for you in the ER. Some practices allow slots for sick kids but they seem to be too few. I suppose you can’t have a doctor or other health practitioner waiting around for a sick kid. Makes more fiscal sense to just fill up the day with all those healthy kids. Less vomiting and itchy rashes and germ exposure that way, I guess.

What to do with my sore-throated kid? There are walk-in clinics around that are full-pay. They have seemingly good doctors and prompt service and everything, of course, comes out of your pocket. No thanks. I took her to the Minute Clinic at CVS. I know they’re not the only game in town. Other pharmacy chains have begun offering walk-in clinics, but I’ve only experienced CVS’s version. Off to the Henderson Road CVS (there’s never a wait) armed with my $10 co-pay. With only a three-minute wait (I timed it), we were seen by an experienced nurse practitioner who was knowledgeable, personable and thorough. The examination and testing were done right there; prescriptions were given in exchange for cash or check. All taken care of inside the clean, inviting little lab/examination room/office. The NP had a caring demeanor, a warm smile and a sincere empathy for my child’s well-being. She even called us at home the next day to see how my daughter was doing.

Now I wouldn’t use the Minute Clinic for a gash to the head or a seizure or anything but, let’s face it, how often do those things happen? No, life is full of the sniffles and sneezes, rashes and bumps that need to stay out of the ER and are unwelcome at the doctor’s office. The emergence of insurance-amenable healthcare clinics within franchised pharmacies is a solution to the health care gap between well-care and emergency care. Hey, Doc, are you listening?