My patient, Jackie, hadn’t seen a physician in years but was excited to tell me her daughter had recently helped her sign up for health insurance.
‘Not bad at all,’ she said, ‘took about 20 minutes.’
She came to our free health clinic this Saturday morning just to ‘get her diabetes under control’ until she could establish a primary care doctor of her own closer to her home. Because of her previous lack of insurance, she had gone without insulin, cancer screenings and illness and wellness care. She was optimistic now and felt ready to make big changes in her life.
Jackie had the orange, “Your guide to Make the Right Call” info-graphic sheet in her hands.
“I was reading this”, she said as she pointed to the sheet. “My daughter could have used this last week” she sighed. “She took her son to the Emergency Room last week for a sore throat. They waited almost 4 hours! They have new insurance too. It was around dinnertime and my daughter didn’t think her doctor’s office would be open. Come to find out that office has evening hours.”
Jackie and I reviewed the info-graphic together. Along with the symptoms listed I wanted to make sure Jackie, with diabetic medications now in hand, knew what warning signs to watch for if her blood glucose got too low. She was going to check her finger-sticks in the morning before breakfast and one to two hours after beginning a meal. We talked about the clinic hours and the best way to reach the clinic. We talked about symptoms based on her risk factors for other emergencies, when to call 911 and when an urgent care facility may be an appropriate option.
Jackie will be seeing her new family physician soon. She plans to find out what the office hours are and how best to reach her doctor on weekends and evenings. Jackie will also ask if the practice is affiliated with an urgent care clinic. She knew that many free standing urgent care clinics wouldn’t have access to her medication list and medical history and that she’d have to bring those along if she went.
As more patients are able to get a primary care physician, some for the very first time, understanding what kinds of emergencies might require a 911 call and when to call the primary care office is important.
I know that Jackie will Make the Right Call. I encourage others to discuss this info-graphic with your own doctor, so you can be prepared to do the same.
Barbara Tobias, M.D.
University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine
Department of Family and Community Medicine