Winning the Primary Care Lottery

I spent over two hours at my new primary care doctor’s office today, and I couldn’t be happier! Well, maybe a little, but that wasn’t their fault.

My previous primary care doctor retired in June. I’d thought I had my replacement set up, but it didn’t work out. The insurance company’s website lied when it told me my gynecologist did primary care. So after had my annual gynecology visit last week, I needed to find a new primary care provider ASAP. I’ve been too disabled for too long.

Primary Care Visit Selfie

 

Choosing My New Primary Care Doctor

My gynecologist suggested making an appointment with my old doctor’s practice, just to put things in motion. Despite my intense phone phobia, I called and made an appointment. The first available appointment with a PA was almost three weeks away, and the doctor wasn’t available for at least five months. Ugh. But I took the PA appointment offered to me.

And then I asked friends for recommendations for alternate doctors. One friend suggested the practice she uses that is very close to my psychiatrist’s office. One of the doctors in the practice is licensed to prescribe medical marijuana, so that means she is used to helping patients with pain and complex problems. I chose her as a potential new primary care doctor.

Making the Appointment I Kept

When I called to ask about making a new patient appointment with Dr. Bennett, the receptionist apologized for not being able to get me in last week. I’d called on a Tuesday. She then gave me a choice of two appointments for the following Tuesday (today), one on Wednesday, and another on Thursday. I chose Tuesday at 11:30, and she apologized again that I had to wait “so long.” A week! She got me an appointment within one week of my call! This was a practice that could pay attention to me without rushing me.

Meeting My New Primary Care Team

The nurse who brought me in was very pleasant, and she was often singing under her breath as she worked. I appreciate health care professionals who are friendly and seem to enjoy their work. I was asked if it was okay that Dr. Bennett’s med student was involved in my appointment today, and I didn’t have a problem with it.

As it turned out, the med student was wonderful! She was a young woman who may have only started her rotation there within the last month or two, because she almost forgot to take my vitals before reporting to the doctor, and she had to pop her head back in a few times to ask me questions she’d forgotten. But her experience from a previous rotation ended up being quite helpful!

The New Primary Care Doctor Herself

After the med student reported everything from my interview to Dr. Bennett, I got to meet the good doctor. Like everyone else, she was pleasant to talk to. Just as importantly, she was ready to get down to business with me. She asked me about if I’d had certain tests before, when I had other tests last, and other pertinent questions. She expressed appropriate irritation with the rheumatologist who told me he couldn’t help me. Then she asked if I’d ever had a brain MRI to check for MS. When she asked if she could keep the original full color copy of the pain map I’d created, I said that was fine.

And she was fully on board with the paper I’d printed out with suggested tests for mitochondrial disease, which my psychiatrist thought I should get tested for. Some of the tests were obscure, but the med student had had a pediatric patient who’d had them run, so she was able to shed some light on the subject! It’s like this was meant to be. Dr. Bennett not only ordered most of the tests on the printed sheet, but she had some of them performed in the office before I left! We’re holding off on anything involving spinal fluid, which is just fine with me.

I also got her “flu shot refusal” spiel, which doesn’t really apply since I’m mostly bedridden anyways. And she had to tell me their controlled substance policy, which includes a certain number of annual visits and occasional drug testing.

Tests in the Doctor’s Office

Apparently, my insurance covers blood work drawn in-office. I’m not used to that, so I wasn’t prepared for it. The nurse tried really hard, using the butterfly needle on her first try, but the blood just wasn’t coming out. She tried another location…my hand. The pain was intense. I bit my lip, then I drove the fingernail of my right index finger into the fleshy part of my right thumb – you know, to give me a different pain to focus on. She still couldn’t get my blood. I was too dehydrated. (Both needle spots still hurt, the one in my hand the most. Bruising has started.) So I have a lab slip to get the blood drawn elsewhere another day.

Bandaged Arm after Bad Blood Draw

 

After that trauma, the hearing test and the EKG were nothing. I’m going back to the office next week for an echocardiogram.

The Blood Work

Since I have a lab slip because of my insufficient blood, I can list all of the different blood tests that have been ordered for me. I like to keep track of them for future reference, like I did several years ago.

And since they have to include the reason why they’re ordering lab tests, Dr. Bennett included myalgias, joint pain, polyarthritis, fibromyalgia, mitochondrial disease, edema, and weakness. More blood work may be ordered based on the results of these tests.

Other Things I Have to Schedule

Dr. Bennett would like me to see a specific ophthalmologist, and the receptionist wrote down his contact information for me. I can see anyone at his office because he personally oversees all of them. (Insert joke about “seeing” the ophthalmologist if you wish.)

I also need to schedule the brain MRI, which needs prior approval. They want me to go to the same office where I have a mammogram and breast ultrasound scheduled in two weeks, so I’m hoping they can schedule my MRI for the same visit.

Followup with My Primary Care Doc

I go back in four weeks to review my test results with the doctor and schedule any additional tests she thinks may be appropriate at that time. All of this will guarantee I meet my deductible and finally see some benefit from the premiums we pay.

By getting it all done at once, I hope it will also reach our household annual maximum so that freaking Cigna has to cover some of it completely. (I have money set aside for all the copays, and I haven’t submitted any of my slips from my psychiatrist yet, because he’s out of network and they don’t like paying for that. That’s $2,700 right there. I’m hoping to get a big chunk of that refunded once it’s submitted.) And qualify us for the healthcare deduction on our taxes.

Let’s hope for more test results that lead to treatment solutions!

Christina Gleason (972 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Empire: Four Kingdoms. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


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