Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Male Call, Advice from a Gal

Why is it that men do not seem to know how to use the medical system in this country? Let me re-phrase that -- men do not seem to know how to use the medical system in this country appropriately and efficiently.

Let me give you an example. A fifty-something friend of mine typically uses Urgent Care for a minor skin problem he has had for over three months. Overkill. Why not schedule an appointment with your physician for next week? Waiting another week will probably not make any difference. Another case in point - a thirty-something friend of mine is battling asthma, and instead of going to his regular physician, he went to the Emergency Room earlier today, where he was prescribed cough medicine with codeine by a physician who did not know his personal asthma history. Several hours later, my friend sent out a message on Facebook several asking "friends" if they had any "home remedies" for asthma. When I contacted him by phone after seeing his Facebook post, I could hear him wheezing over the phone but he did not want to go back to the Emergency Room at 11 pm. He promised me he would contact his regular physician tomorrow morning, arrange to be seen the same day, and bring his current asthma medication with him.

How can we get a message through to the male sex of our species? The Emergency Room should be used for true life-threatening emergencies, like heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, serious asthma attacks and allergic reactions. Urgent Care should be used for medical problems that need to be seen the same day (such ankle sprains, cuts that need a few stitches, and probable ear infections) on those rare occasions when your "regular physician" is unable to see you that day.

And, EVERYONE, male and female, should have their own "regular physician", a doctor with whom you have had some previous contact, a doctor who knows your personal and family medical history.

So, why don't guys have a better understanding of how to use the medical system? I think its pretty simple - they just don't have the experience women do with using the medical system. Even young women see their gynecologists on a regular basis, every year or two. Sometimes men have not been to the doctor in ten years. Expectant mothers see their obstetricians regularly over the course of their nine month pregnancies. I hate to sound sexist, but new mothers are usually the parent to take their babies to the doctor. (I have based this on scientific evidence from looking around the waiting room during my many recent visits to my family physician for my own medical issues.) Women are just used to the system, and better at using it more appropriately and efficiently. We know when junior needs mom to hold and calm him all night through his virus-caused low-grade fever, and when a sudden spike in temperature warrants a trip to the Emergency Room.

Men continue to use Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Rooms for minor illnesses and accidents. I can think of only one thing to do to get the attention of the men in our country -- run free medical information usage ads during the Stanley Cup Finals or the Super Bowl. There is only one problem -- I cannot imagine that this idea will trump beer and pickup truck commercials, at least not during my lifetime.

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