Saturday, February 26, 2011

How much does the Doctor's Office Matter?

There were a couple of reasons I had started another elimination diet last year. Of course I wanted to try to find any additional food triggers I might have, but I also wanted to feel like I had done everything I could so if I needed to take the next step for my Migraine treatments, I could justify it to myself.

Although I still have a long way to go on this elimination diet, I feel that I will not reduce the number of Migraines I am currently getting as I add back more foods. I may find more food triggers which will help me in the long run, but that won't reduce my Migraines further than they are now.

I have to say that both of my elimination diets have been successful as the first one decreased my headaches and Migraines almost in half while the second one reduced it by almost another third of this lowered number. However, I am still getting too many Migraines and am still in double digits per month.

Since I had already laid the ground work, I decided that I might as well get some of my other questions answered about my next step doctor. Just to set the record straight, I am not ready to move yet, but I need all of the information in order to make the best choice I need to make for me and my family next.

I called the next doctor's office I plan to go to if I decide to move on. I had already seen that this office is having some staffing issues so I was prepared for some disorder, but I'm not really sure I am ready to deal with a doctor's office like this either. I did not like the way I was treated and the abruptness of being thrown into an automated system the first time I called. Knowing their staffing issues and not looking to transfer there yet, I could easily overlook it and move on.

Even though it seemed like it was a long way off, the automated system set the expectation that it could be five days before I received a call back from the office. Since this was not an emergency, I was willing to live with this especially since I know I am not ready to move yet, but I also know that this is what I tend to do before I jump into doing something.

I realized the morning of a client visit that the doctor's office may call back on that day. I decided it was worth it to leave an extended message on my cell phone, which I left in my car. It seemed to work like a charm because of course they called in the middle of the client visit. The message they left really restored my faith in the doctor's office as they acknowledged my message left specifically for them and said they would try to call after the certain time I mentioned or the next morning.

They were really pleasant, but I never heard back from them again. Since I am so tentative about making any switch at this time, I find I am using it as an excuse to not call them back plus I need to be prepared for the coldness again. Here are the pros and cons that keep going through my head right now:

Pros: The doctor is a top notch doctor. He is only a couple of hours drive away. He would be a partner and a true Migraine specialist.

Cons: Scuttlebutt has it that the office is in total disarray at this time. The office is a couple of hours drive away. It would cost more to go to him; especially the first visit.

I know his office is going through a tough time right now, but I've heard of them going through hard times before too. My current doctor's office does not rate well on the doctor rating sites, but I have never experienced anything negative with them. They have always been very pleasant and most importantly, available for anything I may have needed.

Although I know the doctor is one of the best in the world, I don't like the taste the office left behind. What if I weren't just inquiring now? What if I needed to get through with an issue? I think I question it more right now because I have also seen where a couple of their patients have had issues trying to get in touch with their office. This was actually the reason I thought to leave the extended message to them on my cell phone in the first place.

Honestly, I never really thought about how important a doctor's office staff would be to me and how much I would be willing to put up with from an office no matter how good the doctor. I don't know that I like the feeling of not being able to get in touch with my doctor especially since I don't call into the office very often to begin with.

I question this more right now as I analyze my current doctor even closer and keep going back and forth as to what I should do. That's probably a big reason I reached out to this next doctor's office at this time too. I also had another visit with my doctor this week. I probably came out of that visit with more questions and quandaries than I have in a long time. Granted, I probably put myself in that position and she even told me that I will have a lot to contemplate, but I haven't had a chance to research anything since my visit. I can't seem to get rid of this cold where the coughing is wreaking total havoc on everything.

How much does a doctor's office matter to you? What do you look for from the office? What is important to you? What can you or can't you overlook?



WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

I deal with a headache specialist who has extremely responsive staff, which is helpful for me. The headache specialist I had before him practiced at two different hospitals, a pediatric hospital and a large research hospital in a big city about 4 hours away. It was hard to reach her, it was hard for her staff to reach her, but once reached I always got an answer - plus they would do new prescriptions this way becuase of the distance. Because of that I put up with it until I became in network for the local guy. I do think I got more innovative treatments from true headache specialists than I got from a general neurologist. And more understanding of what disruption my headache caused. Good luck - its a hard decision.

Migrainista said...

Unfortunately the office staff is often the gatekeeper in med offices. Unfortunately, they have way to much power to to control the entire experience. I don't have much tolerence for a medical system that is unreliable. This stuff is just too important. I can overlook a waiting room that isn't comfortable. That's about it. When I call the response has to be within 24 hours. I expect to be treated respectfully and that includes respecting my privacy. I expect them to do everything they say they will do in a timely manner. I'm afraid my pain has made me less flexible. Of course these are also not unreasonable expectations. Especially considering how much these services cost.
Boy, this is quite a situation you are in. I wish you luck as you navigate through this possible new office.

Teri said...

Great post!

MigrainePuppet said...

This doctor has been very groundbreaking in many of the treatments he has given to his patients. He is one of the best of the best and even has a good bedside manner where he can bring the conversation down to a level us common folk can understand.

I can't be upset with the office letting me know that it would be five days before they got back to me; I am not a patient yet. My concern would be if I was calling in with a real question, how long would the call back be then? That is when I would have higher expectations around the service I was getting and I would want to know the answer to that question before I switched over.

I will probably give the office another call back when I am ready and when I have a few days free that I can receive a call back. I still want to at least ask them the same questions I had before and will probably ask a few more after this experience. I will have to weigh everything after we talk.

Thank you for all of your responses!

Diane said...

I had a quandry of switching to a Headache specialist way back in the fall when my neurologist "gave up" on me after just 9 months and what was only my 4th visit. She was local and at the first visit she even gave me her email so I could send my diary ahead of time, though the only time I emailed her a question, she didn't reply. Fortunately, despite "giving up", I picked a med change that worked, and she gave me 6 months of refills and amazingly, my migraines/chronic daily headaches improved drastically for a couple months.

That being said, I had already decided to go ahead and make an appt with the headache specialist that is 2 hours away, in a busy city, and I read that they charge for everything from refills requests by the pharmacy to phone consults. When I called for an appt, the person on the phone only took my name and maybe my phone number - nothing else. I too, thought the office staff was going to be horrendous and totally disorganized. But my PCP's nurse actually called to encourage me when I left a note asking his advice about switching to the new neuro. I think he was thrilled! Needless to say, he has also been super supportive at getting me set up with some tests and physical therapy the HA specialist ordered since I did make the switch.

Even though I had had a great month headache wise during the month before my appointment with the new doc and almost cancelled, I decided to keep the appt and think of it as a "2nd opinion" or consult. That way if I didn't like them, I never had to go back again. As it turned out, sometime between that first phone call and the visit with the doctor, the lady at the front desk sounded more confident on the phone (and I complimented her on her skills at keeping everything going) and I really liked the doctor. He did agree with the old neuro on one thing but he is WAY ahead of her with treatment ideas and he moved right to trying BOTOX b/c of my other health problems, the types of headaches (as in where), and he was very thorough and compassionate. I have been going back every 4-6 weeks and have received reminder phone calls 2 days before the visit, and have not had problems with their office yet. I won't rule it out of course b/c I am bringing some questions and I need refills that my PCP seems to not want to refill any more, so we'll see how that all goes.

So I guess one suggestion could be to have a "test visit". A consultation so to speak. Kind of like if you were taking your child to a new day care or something. A look see at the new doctor's office. I was kind of open with him about that as my reason for being there. I said my current neuro had run out of ideas and they were recommended so I came to see for myself but I was driving 2 hours so I had to make sure he was worth my while. I'm a pretty happy, easygoing kind of person so it was all light-hearted.

Good luck! I'll be honest, switching doctors was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I've never really done that b/c I didn't like someone before. It's so easy to just go with the flow...

MigrainePuppet said...

Thank you, Diane. You have given me a lot to think about too. This month is two years since I started seeing my current doctor and we have had a very good rapport. However, I think it may be time to venture out to see if I could get better help, but she is the first doctor I don't want to run away from either.

I think you may be right about going on a test visit, second opinion or consultation to check out the new doctor's office. I know I need something different, changed or mixed up right now and this is probably what I need to try, but I'm leery about giving up on the best doctor I've had so far because I know how hard it was to find her.