- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

‘One problem, one visit’. My primary care physician’s screen in the waiting room says. I am revolted.

My General Practitioner’s (public health, UK) waiting room has a new big screen that announces ‘Your visit with the doctor is only 10 minutes’ (…) These are ways for you to make it efficient’. And then a series of digital recommendations that include ‘be clear’, ‘have a list of problems’ and, in particular, ‘one appointment, one problem’

In the public website there are also other things such as ‘Be clear about what you want the GP to do such as refer you to a specialist or prescribe a different medication. Be assertive if you need to, but always be polite’

I looked at that screen in disbelief. I thought it was awful. Note the language ‘only 10 minutes’. It means, be clear, sharp, focused, don’t waste the doctor’s precious time, for goodness sake, no matter how sick you feel.

‘Only 10 minutes’. Whoever wrote that, did not have a clue about framing messages. Anybody with half behavioural economics training (e.g read a couple of books) would have said: ‘plenty of time to discuss your problems in your very personal 10 minutes’. Or something like that.

‘One problem, one visit’. Not even the car workshop in the corner works with a ‘one problem, one visit’. Or my financial adviser. Or my kid’s teachers.

The holistic view of the individual is lost. Has primary health care/medicine become a problem solving/algorithm thinking, one thing a time?

‘Be clear about what you want the GP to do such as refer you to a specialist or prescribe a different medication’. So the General Practitioner is an information traffic officer, a Dispatcher, a ‘on demand therapy prescribing’

I was embarrassed as a trained medical doctor, not in practice. I know it is all full of good intentions. But that sacred one to one, doctor-patient, space and time cannot be straitjacketed. It’s not a pitching slot, a ‘Dragons Den’, a ‘elevator pitch’ of I don’t feel well.

I told my good friend GP about ‘that screen’. It took 1 second for him to say, ‘oh, don’t worry about it’. And he avoided eye contact.

One problem, one visit. Really? How very sad. I’m truly mortified.