Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The New Doctor

We moved back to Canada from Colorado on July 1, 2010. I've been looking for a regular family doctor ever since then. I had no idea how difficult it would be.

For a while, I went back to my next-to-last doctor in Ottawa, but was increasingly dissatisfied there. Then I got lazy and just went to walk-in clinics. And then my blood sugar went sky high because my diabetes was unmedicated and completely out of control.

At that point, my search for a family doctor became a little desperate.

Then, one day, a friend bumped into her friend, who happens to be a family doctor here in Ottawa. That friend mentioned that her practice had just taken on two more doctors and was accepting patients. Happy dance! Woop! Woop!

[Side note: I had registered with the Ontario Ministry of Health's database to help people find new doctors. They somehow were unaware that this practice was accepting patients. Sad.]

Within minutes, I called the office and made an appointment to meet one of the new doctors. Today was the big day.

I liked the practice right away: the front-desk staff were friendly, but businesslike. They didn't keep me waiting for more than 15 minutes (during which time I filled in paperwork).

The doctor herself was both friendly and professional. She was also frank about a few things that she thought might be issues for me:

1. They prefer that their patients not go to the many, many walk-in clinics in the city. This is because when they take me on as a patient, the Ontario Ministry of Health pays the practice a flat stipend for routine medical appointments. If I go to a walk-in, the charge for that visit is deducted from my doctor's stipend.

This is my preferred approach anyway - I would rather see my regular doctor than a stranger! (I haven't had great luck with walk-in-clinic doctors and I loath the amount of time wasted waiting.) 

2. In order to support this approach, they have a system called "Better Access." Although some appointments can be booked in advance, most, including routine follow-ups, are only booked 1-2 days ahead. This allows for more impromptu visits.

This also suits me fine. It can be difficult to plan my schedule more than a week ahead anyway. On the other hand, she does consider stabilizing my diabetes a high priority and allowed me to break the last-minute-booking rule and make a follow-up appointment in September.

3. They also have long hours and their own after-hours on-call doctor. This helps cut down on the need to go to a walk-in or emergency.

Sure wish I'd had access to this care when I spent hours in emergency for chest/neck pain. They might have made the same recommendation (my symptoms were ambiguous), but it still would have been better to have some follow-up.

4. She has only prescribed Victoza for patients who have received their initial prescription from an endocrinologist, so she is not an expert at all. 

Neither was the walk-in doctor who prescribed a medication on top of the Victoza that threw me into hypoglycemia. It's not ideal, but she's aware of this gap in her experience. And, unlike with the walk-in doc, I  can call the office immediately, rather than waiting a week.

5. They are pretty conservative about ordering tests and lab work.

But she does like to establish some baselines, so she ordered some fasting blood tests right off the bat.

6. She is not accepting any new patients.

But, she will take anyone from my family, including Steve when he retires from the military in two years. She will also take Brian.

All in all, I am one very happy woman.

Bonus: My new doctor's office is about a five-minute drive from home and about 20 minutes from work, so not bad.  

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