Breakfast Smoothie – Patients’ Names

(If you have never read “Breakfast Smoothies” you might want to read the short introductory page. Explanations about the most blatant lies usually follow the essay.)

Medical BuildingDoctors do not want to know your name, I continued.

Erica had just come into the garden with her breakfast smoothie. She sat down with Tim and I.

“Sorry,” Tim said in a low voice to Erica, as if I could not hear him. “I’m afraid I’ve started him up again on the registration process at the clinics.”

In a normal voice he continued, “I was just saying that I went back to the clinic yesterday. Registration went like normal: name, date of birth, has your address changed?”

“I told them I was just here two days ago.”

The clerk said, ‘we’ve got to make sure that we have the right patient’. I said, ‘‘you have my picture. How can it not be me?”

Why do they bother taking your name? The providers don’t even care what your name is. They rarely even look at you anyway; they’re always staring at their laptop computer.

“Sometimes they have a large screen built right into the exam room wall,” Erica offered.

What do you think they’re looking at?

Medical BuildingYour results, your numbers, your x-rays, your chart; all the things that represent ‘you’ to them. Not you. Not your name.

For all they use a patient’s name, they don’t even need to register you.

“But my doctor actually uses my name,” said Tim.

They’re taught to do that. ‘Use the patient’s name.’ “Good morning, (look at name), Tim. How are you this morning?”

“They never remember you or anything about you, anyway,” said Erica. “It doesn’t even matter if you get the same doctor or one of the partners on your next visit. They never even remember.”

That’s right. My wife and I had just left the doctor’s office with orders to get an x-ray. While she waited in radiology, I went to the cafeteria for some coffee and ran into the same doctor in the hallway. I said hello and he smiled and said hello with no recognition in his eyes at all. We had been in his office less than twenty minutes before. It’s like a production line for them. Not people, just pieces: part after part; a conveyor of parts to repair.

“What do you call this smoothie, anyway,” Tim asked.

Just like a patient, the name does not matter.

“You are quite the cynic this morning,” said Erica.

“That’s different from when?” said Tim.

I don’t think they want to know your name because they don’t want to get too close to you. They see it just as an assembly line, and if they knew your name, they’d have to slow down and treat you as something other than a part.

They get paid by the part, by throughput. Not even by making your parts better, just by dealing with it: diagnosis, treatment, orders, prescription. Certainly not by knowing your name.

Deal with the part. On to the next part.

Medical Building“Maybe we get more objective diagnosis and treatment that way. You know, they can step back and not get emotionally involved, and give a more considered opinion,” said Erica.

Like they actually think about the problem? Mull over it?

I don’t think so.

Can you imagine a doctor sitting back in his lounger, watching Thursday night football, and all of a sudden, he sits up straight and says, “Wow. I just got a great idea on what’s wrong with Tim. Let me call him.

The truth is, he does not even know there is a Tim.

“I feel vaguely indistinct.”

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