Boston Women’s Journal - August/September 2004

The 15 Minute Appointment

Recently I had a client in my office who had just been through treatment for metastatic breast cancer. She had seen my ad in this paper and was looking for someone to help her through the next stage of her life, armed with information and willing to try alternative therapies. Her journey to my office started six months ago with a visit to a well known doctor in a very well known hospital in the Boston area. She was nervous and frightened. She was filled with questions and fears. She was 38 years old.

In a dry tone, with no affect, the doctor had given her a bunch of technical terms and a sheet of paper that outlined the next people she should call in order to receive a surgery appointment, and to be scheduled for radiation. She had never met this doctor before, and before she knew it she was standing in the corridor crying, holding a piece of paper. The doctor was not a bad person, and as my client looked around the room, she saw twenty other women waiting for the same doctor and the same 15 minute appointment. Some would receive better news and some would receive worse, but they all would get the same even manner, no time for questions, and a piece of paper with instructions regarding what they should do next.

She duly called the people she was supposed to, as outlined on her piece of paper, and in a stunned state walked through the next steps of her treatment. Her next appointment was with a surgeon, who explained in medical detail exactly what she would do and on what date she would do it. She left the office with a piece of paper in her hands, in tears, facing it seemed, the same women sitting in the same chairs, waiting for their 15 minutes and their piece of paper.

And on it went, though her surgery, through her radiation, through her chemotherapy, all the way to my office. My practice is as a medical intuitive, and I often work with people who are discouraged or disappointed by the treatment they have received through traditional medicine. They often have chronic conditions that allopathic medicine offers few solutions for, or are looking to support traditional treatments with additional alternative care. I can provide them with interpretation of their experience through my traditional training, and with alternative health care options including supplements to improve their long term wellness. Sometimes they come in because they have been shellshocked and are looking for a way to contextualize their experience and move forward with their life while minimizing whatever damage has been done to their body through their treatment.

This woman, and others like her, with diagnoses such as lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and chronic illness in general, are not easily served by 15 minute appointments that just provide technical instructions and nothing else. The 15 minute medical model is driven by one major force - insurance reimbursement. As absurd as it sounds, doctors have a number of clients they must see in a day, and are expected to provide nothing but diagnosis and action plans for a person’s care. This has changed gradually over the years, and is now at the worst point that I have seen it in 25 years of practicing in medical-related fields.

In order for a person to get well, especially from a chronic illness or injury, they need information, the ability to make choices about their care, a supportive individual who will listen to their concerns. Someone to help them think about how this will affect their life, their work, and their family, and a translator familiar with medical terminology. The 15 minute appointment provides none of these services.

I am a believer in integrative medicine. That means that in order to get the best care for a person, we should include all the options available. Those options might include traditional medical care, supplemental medicine, osteopathy, or whatever. Any good care must include providing someone with the ability to comprehend, make decisions, and be an active part of their treatment.

This woman’s survival and future health my have been dependent on the traditional care she received, but her recovery was hampered by not receiving any support or choices along the way. In addition, her post-acute treatment was not addressed at all. That’s how she ended up in my office. If we allow this model of service provision to continue, we compromise not only the quality of care people receive, but their actual survival.