Will Your Doctor Call You Back? Part I

May 20, 2004 -- Posted 7:30 am CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- What ever happened to the good old fashioned doctor's house call?

These days it's often times difficult to schedule an appointment for that day, let alone get your doctor on the phone. The days of a doctor's house call came before HMO's and PPO's were a part of everyday medical jargon.

Some doctors we've spoken to say all they have is time to sell, but why don't some physicians have time to personally return your phone call? The answer: they believe outside factors are causing these problems.

83 year old Inous Wright works wonders with her hands. She's known as the seamstress to the country music stars in Nashville, but here in Jonesboro her connections haven't gotten her far in the doctor's office.

"I went in there one time for an emergency, and he made me wait 4 hours with blood clots," said Wright.

Inous has had several heart problems. She's had two heart bypasses, and following those surgeries she developed fluid in her body. Two doctors later, Inous says the biggest problem was just getting an appointment.

"And then getting the girls to answer the phones at the office," said Wright.

Inous is just one of many patients across the country whose doctor never called them back. Inous had an easier time getting some of her famous clients on the phone like the Judds, rather than her own doctor.

"You can't talk to an answering machine, and something like that is serious," said Wright.

Inous says she's feeling a lot better now with a new doctor who gives her the attention she needs.

"I'm like a cat, I have 9 lives," said Wright.

But what if Inous wasn't so lucky?

Patients like Inous aren't the only ones frustrated with the current state of health care in this country. According to the Tufts Managed Care Institute they did a study a few years ago that suggests physicians themselves are unhappy with managed care and its structure, based on the advent of government regulations and insurance companies, and this change has been happening as far back as the 1960's just ask Doctor F.M. Wilson.

Wilson retired from the medical profession in 1982. Now in his 80's, he spends most of his time staying active, and winning medals in the senior Olympic games.

Wilson started off in his own practice, and he says at that time, if a patient needed a call returned, he felt confident his nurses could handle it.

"Now if there was a specific message to give them, then I would deliver it myself," said Wilson, "If someone wants to call and talk for 10-15 minutes...no."

But then in the mid 60's Wilson says medicare and insurance companies got involved in the delivery of medical care and a lot of changes happened, especially with billing.

"When the insurance company came in they stepped in and then you were dealing more with the insurance companies," said Wilson.

In fact, Wilson says it was disturbing to say the least. Sometimes he dealt with secretaries that didn't know anything about medicine.  "And they were making some of the decisions, and I'm sure it's worse now than it was then," said Wilson.

Is it worse now than it was then?

Doctor Michael Tedder has been practicing medicine in Jonesboro for the past 28 years.

"If a patient comes in and says I want a B-12 shot, they can't get a B-12 shot because medicare won't pay. So they have to sign a waiver that they know this might not...blah...blah...blah," said Tedder.

"Thinking about modern times, a guy going out hanging his own shingle up with government regulations on lab and x-rays it would be really hard to do," said Tedder.

But are these regulations really standing in the way of your doctor calling you back?