Ah, we must be more civil. No more taunts. No more tirades. No more gun crosshair targets, no matter how innocently placed on our graphics (though I am not sure gun crosshairs are ever really innocent in placement). We’ll be more civil in our discourse. In light of the tragedy in Tucson. Maybe.
But stand at the front desks in a hospital admissions area or a doctor’s office or at other providers’ offices and civility is the last thing we’ll know. We can be sick – shaking with fever, bending over in pain, bandaged for wounds, chest aching with unknown agony, and the questions and responses will be anything but civil. “What insurance do you have? Where’s your co-payment today? Is that a check, debit or credit card? Do you have a picture ID? Have you signed our legal forms and signed our privacy forms?”
And if you make it through all of that, you may still not receive the kind of care needed to make you feel better or even save your life. You may sit waiting for a doctor who may or may not treat you based on what an external organization or agency says you are entitled to receive. The doctor may be annoyed that you are in his or her care instead of farmed out to another specialist. If you do find yourself referred for a test or another doctors’ visit, you’ll start the process all over again from the beginning. Co-pay paid? Insurance in order? Credit or debit card? Picture ID?
Civility? Hell. No one has even helped with the symptoms that brought you or a loved one in for care.
In my more civil healthcare world, the first questions asked would relate to, well, civil sorts of patient-related questions. “How can I help you today? How are you feeling? Does that hurt? How can I make you more comfortable?” But until we transform this system, those questions are secondary, at best.
Even in our most crass and impersonal financial transactions, some polite interaction is programmed into the dialogue. But not in healthcare in America. It seems every time I seek care or take someone I love for care, I am treated like an annoyance or like the enemy – someone from whom the providers must be protected. The evil, non-cash-bearing patients, we are viewed by many as such.