I’m getting old.
Beyond the simple fact that every day I inch forward chronologically, I also have the aches and pains of a person pushing 50. This came into stark relief last week when I tried, with one arm, to move a very heavy tent.
To get the 80-pound contraption where it needed to be, I had to lift it about a foot over my head with my arm completely extended. I got it done and then moved on to my other chores without giving it another thought.
The next morning I could hardly move my shoulder. I had excruciating pain and inflammation. I got through the required morning tasks then headed off to a walk-in clinic. By the time I got there I was beyond miserable. I walked through the door and looked straight at a huge bulletin board displaying the prices for service.
That’s when the geek in me took over…
I use a Health Savings Account, which means I have insurance but it pays for nothing until I meet my deductible of about $10,000. I’ve never reached that level, thank goodness.
However I am a careful consumer of health care. I ask the price of everything, which as readers of this letter know, can lead to weird situations, such as health care providers not being able to tell you a cost until after services are rendered. That’s why this walk-in clinic was such a nice surprise.
I knew that any health professional would want to x-ray my shoulder, and from looking at the wall I knew it would cost $127 and be performed on the property in a matter of minutes. I knew the basic visit would be $75. Immediately I began looking around and wondering about the business of the place.
I was brought to an examination room and my vital signs were taken (don’t worry, I’m healthy). Within five minutes a woman came in and introduced herself as Anne, the nurse practitioner. Perfect! I’m a big fan of having most medical needs addressed by someone other than an M.D., who should spend his or her time on the most serious or difficult cases.
Anne quickly assessed my issue, surmising that I had over-exerted the shoulder and caused inflammation of the muscle and connective tissue that was impeding my movement and causing pain. She ordered an x-ray to rule out bone issues (there weren’t any), and then prescribed a steroid shot to help with the swelling and a sling to stop me from damaging it further.
The entire visit lasted less than 45 minutes.
When I paid my bill of $251, I was presented with a detailed listing of the diagnosis, a course of treatment (immobilization and further non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication), a detailed statement of what to do if the condition did not improve, and a CD that contained the x-rays so I could take it to my primary physician. Needless to say, I was stunned.
Here was a for-profit venture focused on the provision of immediate medical care that seemed to be clearly focused on the client. I had no idea such a business existed.
My experience with healthcare providers over the past decade has been frustrating at best, with fees charged after the fact, unnecessary services forced on us, and billing that showed up more than two years after services were performed.
The fact that this business was so efficient and transparent was a welcomed departure from what has become a depressing norm.
I can only hope that this sort of experience will be, or is already being, replicated around the country. It would be great to see people like me, who are fortunate enough to see a doctor very infrequently, use a system of walk-in clinics that can provide almost all of the services we will ever need (sinus infections, strep, busted shoulder, etc.).
This is the sort of trend that can and should unfold over the next decade, leading to greater business opportunities for companies like Walgreen’s and CVS Pharmacies, two of the firms that have committed to putting clinics in their retail locations.
If we finally get some efficiencies built into our provision of health care, then maybe American families would not have to choose between health insurance and a new car.
Of course, the American Medical Association won’t be too happy, but that’s a group we can afford to alienate.
Ahead of the Curve with Adam O’Dell
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