Sand in the Gears

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Back off pal, I’m an M.D.

March 30th, 2009 Posted in Business Reviews

“She’s taking it to the chiropractor,” smirked one Newton Medical Center technician to another as my wife waited for them to hand over an x-ray scan of baby Isaiah’s arm. We were twenty hours into an ordeal, sparked the night before when he came wailing to his mother, his arm held tight to his side. She took him to the emergency room, where they concluded, based on the scan, that nothing was broken. They theorized that he’d suffered nursemaid’s elbow, and that the tendon had somehow popped back into place on its own. They sent mother and wailing baby home with advice to give him Tylenol.

He hardly slept that night. The next day his pain was just as bad, and so Wife took him to our family chiropractor. She actually bothered to perform a manual exam. It was hard to tell with the swelling, but yes, it felt like the tendon was out of whack. She treated Isaiah with ice packs and laser therapy, notably reducing the swelling. She adjusted his elbow as best she could, and then the following day, after more treatment to reduce the swelling, she got the recalcitrant tendon back into place completely.

The total cost was under a hundred dollars, compared to the hundreds those geniuses at the hospital squandered in place of a competent manual exam. And the thing is, few medical professionals seem to actively seek to learn from their failures, or even admit them. Even if we call and complain, I doubt there will be some consideration by key staff of how they might have done things differently. In their system’s “eyes,” a baby came in with pain, he was adequately treated, and he went home to get better.

I’m just thankful we have choices when we run into professional incompetence. I wonder how that will change once a phalanx of federal professionals gets together to divine what magical blend of bureaucratic oversight can cure a medical bureaucracy overcome by arrogance, poor feedback, a fetish for expensive procedures over common sense, and slovenly administrative oversight. Color me pessimistic, but I don’t see how greater federal intervention is going to fix the bundle of problems that leads trained professionals to choose an x-ray over a simple exam, and to sneer when the patient’s mother goes elsewhere for help.