So we've covered the waitlists and the wait times. We've covered the scarcity of family doctors and the strangeness of having specialists without them. But there is a phenomenon that occurs as a result of these things that many people don't really realise.
You go to the doctor. You tell them what's wrong with you. They put their years of schooling to work and make useful assessments on your file. They prescribe you something, they refer you somewhere, or they give you advice and then you head on your merry way.
At least, that's how it should work. That's how it used to work. But without a family doctor what happens to these useful assessments? What happens to your file?
Well, some people choose to have their file transferred to them personally. This usually costs a few dollars, depending on the clinic, but it gives you a copy of all of your documents from your visit. And if you switch doctors, you can request all of your files be transferred to your new doctor, usually at your own expense.
And if you have never had a doctor or don't have the money to do this, you are left to be the manager of your own medical records, so to speak.
Now, this may seem like a baffling concept to many, but to those who have been battling with the healthcare system for years or even decades it is just common practice. With the number of specialists that you see and the number of doctors that you've been bounced around to it is just best that you know what YOUR medical records are.
This doesn't actually mean paying for and having physical copies of your files. Some do this, but many don't. It simply means that, as individuals, we become the keepers of our own medical histories.
We don't have years and years of medical training. We didn't go to med school. We have no fancy degrees. And yet here we are entrusted with our own healthcare as if that's the way it should be.
It has gotten to the point that doctors will simply rely on your summary of your medical history rather than referring to files or trying to track them down because even they understand that you are meant to know YOUR history. And, realistically, we have to recite it often enough.
At each walk-in clinic or emerge visit we jump through the same hoops for medical history. When you see a new specialist you jump through the same hoops. Sometimes you add something on and sometimes you are lucky enough to remove something. But ultimately you are the keeper of your file.
This is a lot of responsibility for someone with no medical education that is also coping with an illness and trying to seek help. You may also be balancing appointments, family life, work, etc. And here you are having to remember medication, dosages, symptoms, doctor visits, specialists you've seen already, treatments you've tried already - the list is really endless.
Technology companies have even begun to monopolize on this trend of healthcare by creating apps that can help you manage your medical history. iBlueButton, MyMedical, and MyChart are three examples.
Is this really the way we should be moving forward? Should we be treating healthcare more like a business than like a needed service? It definitely feels as though we are going in that directions.
The Canadian healthcare system is this mythical gold standard that doesn't really exist. It is filled with patients who are impatient due to the years they have been waiting for treatment. It is filled with inadequate access to services. And it is filled with doctors who trust you for information more than the charts in front of them.
There is a lack of continuity within the system, a lack of communication across fields, and obvious strain.
You can be referred to a specialist, wait three months to see them, travel to a different city for your appointment, and then find out that they don't actually deal with your issue. There is a lack of research on the part of some doctors, perhaps becuase that aspect is now meant to fall to you as the individual responsible for YOUR history.
Are we at the point where we go to our doctors and just tell them where we need to go and what medication to put us on? Are we at the point that self-diagnosis is more common than actual doctor examination leading to diagnosis? I am not sure, but it feels like we are heading that way.
Again, this is not the fault of the doctors or nurses or other hard working staff within the system. I have nothing but love for anyone who pursues this profession. And I do love the Canadian healthcare system for all of its benefits.
But there is frustration felt by everyone at the lack of progress we see in this particular area. There is a lack of advancement, a lack of integration, and a lack of communication, and all of this leads to a growing wall of impatient and frustrated citizens.
We are a first world country, a developed country. It is about time that we had a healthcare system that adequately reflected that status.