I had the need for urgent medical care a few months back. It started with a persistent cough followed by a fever and chest congestion. Having had pneumonia many years ago, I felt I was on the same slippery slope. I called my primary care physician’s office to schedule an urgent care visit. Here’s how my phone call went:
Me: “I’d like to see the doctor today. I have shortness of breath, chest congestion and a fever. I’ve had pneumonia before, and it seems I probably have it again.
Receptionist: “I’m sorry, but the doctor is booked up today.”
Me: “Can I speak with a nurse? Perhaps she might find an opening for me today or tomorrow.”
Receptionist: “I’ll connect you.”
Me to nurse: “I may be developing pneumonia, and the doctor is familiar with my health history. I could come in today or tomorrow. I’m available anytime.”
Nurse: “I’ll note your symptoms. Unfortunately, our schedule is full today and tomorrow. If you feel the need for urgent care, you’ll have to go to the local emergency room.”
I was able to get an urgent care visit 48 hours later with a doctor in a neighboring town. Cough syrup was prescribed. That evening, I ended up in the ER. A chest x-ray confirmed pneumonia. I was treated with an inhaler, IV antibiotics stat and antibiotics to go. Recovery was complete within 10 days. Even with health insurance, my out-of-pocket expense was $1,500 for the ER visit.
One aspect of primary eyecare is handling urgent care. Many optometrists, myself included, come in early, stay late, and go into the office on weekends for an established patient in need of urgent care. Others refer patients to an ER when the office is closed. Whatever your practice philosophy, make sure your staff is empowered to approach you if an exception is to be made. This will not only save the patient some stress and expense, but also save your doctor-patient relationship.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor