I’ve been thinking about disparities recently. If you’re wondering why I’ve been wondering why; it’s because of two reasons. First, it’s because these days I exist in the dark, lonely drawer of short-term disability. As I ponder how I managed to wind up here, I recognize it’s because I’m a human resource, like many of us; a gear maintaining a load for this company or that one.
And as with any resource, I will be used to the fullest extent required for the efficient running of the machine I’m attached to. After which, when I can no longer function according to my specifications, I will be summarily discarded. Or, if I can be repaired, I’ll go to the shop for modifications; hence the short term disability.
And where there’s disability, there’re also doctor’s visits. As I surf the treacherous waters of STD insurance forms, read about limitations and exclusions and recap the past treatment I’ve had under the care of my physician, I realize I could’ve better prepared myself for the possible occurrence of this probable day.
These days, doctors’ visits last, on average 15-20 minutes. Besides which, many of us will have to sometimes wait up to almost a month or more before we even see our primary physician. So, ingrained in the healing process already before anybody touches anybody, is a sense of urgency. The disparity lies in our ability to garner as much information about ourselves and what ails us. And this particular disparity-how well we accomplish this task-is a personal one that we ourselves control.
Personally, I should’ve asked better questions than the ones I did ask. And as well versed as I am with my insurance , I’ve should’ve reviewed my policies more to be able to speak in their terms when asking questions, particularly about any diagnosis. I know now it helps down the road when filing a claim. On the one hand, you don’t want to make the doctor-patient relationship an adversarial one but you do want to pin your doctor down by being as concise with your queries-get to the chief complaint-as possible and as informed as a layman can be when speaking about your ailments.
As I get older and become more immersed in senior-citizenry, I’m seeing more and more how such differences manifest themselves in dealings with my kindred folk, especially where workplace and health issues are concerned; two areas of our existence that can shape the remainder of our lives.
There exist differences all around us; differences perhaps compounded by age, possibly exacerbated by race. Consider the case of Thomas Eric Duncan.
The disparities evident in the manner of his treatment have been somewhat glossed over. When he first appeared in a Texas emergency room, despite informing the nurse that he’d recently returned from Liberia and was feverish and displaying other symptoms, he was sent home with a pill. What many see as a breakdown in isolation protocol, I see as a difference in how some are treated in today’s emergency rooms; a disparity beyond our immediate control.
And now as he lay dying in a Dallas hospital, he’s not even being administered the experimental drugs used earlier to save the lives of the first American missionaries contracting the disease before returning to the states.
The obvious question is this; why not? Another one: Is this indicative of how it will be? Will everyone have access to equal treatment? Will Mr. Duncan eventually receive the drugs that have been denied him so far?
We call these abortions by many names: discrimination, discrepancies, disproportions, disparities. Make no mistake though; they’re all pretty much the same thing and are created from that same dark side of the human psyche.
My point here is that, to a degree, healthcare disparities exist sometimes because we allow them to. As the field of medicine and disease control takes on an edgy, surreal and futuristic turn, in the manner of taking care of the things that we can, it behooves us all to begin thinking along the lines of ensuring such differences don’t compound our own lives.
How do we do so; we find our voice, each of us. It makes no difference how old you are. Finding and using your voice is a learned skill and the earlier it’s learned the better. And we help others find theirs too. If you have seniors in your family, take a gander now and then at what‘s going on with their healthcare and the coverage to pay for it. Attend a doctor’s visit with them; be involved.
Above all, don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions and engage your physician about the way your course of treatment is running. Remember, we’re coppertops. We can make a lot of noise when we want to be heard.