Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adventures in Health Care

I attended my first physical therapy appointment today, for which I had high hopes. I know I am going to the best possible facility, b/c my boss is also treating there and, given that he has more money than the law should allow (ha-ha; such deep irony in that statement), he is accustomed to receiving the finest health care available.  In fact, when I inquired with him as to where he was treating, he replied, "They are pretty expensive; are you sure your insurance will cover it?"  Stifling the urge to deck him, I thought to myself, "Well, boss, you are providing me with that coverage.  Are you acknowledging that the plan you extend to your employees is shit?  ...boy are you a peach." 

The offices for our mutual physical therapy provider are located near the Galleria in a rather costly sky rise. So far, so good.  As I walked into the building, I observed that their facility occupied the flagship suite on the floor. Impressive.  I completed an online survey of my symptoms.  Technology, excellent.  However, as I was walking into the treatment area from the lobby, I recognized with dawning horror that those cheesy damned motivational posters were plastered all over their walls.  I inwardly cringed, "If the walls are this woefully passe, what must their treatment plans be like?"

I was soon to learn.  Jim did my evaluation.  Apparently, he is a licensed physical therapist (or at least this title was embroidered on his shirt - so that was...comforting).   He took my history, then put me through some range of motion tests, then demonstrated a few home exercises.  After that he left the room and a technician arrived who performed some "treatments" on me including ultrasound therapy and electrical stimulation.  I've linked to the best research I could find in a cursory search for the reputation of same.  As implied by the quotation marks around the word treatment, the results of these efficacy studies seem to be dubious at best - especially with reference to the ultrasound therapy (which sort of feels the way those fuzzy face toys look - in that my musculature felt attracted to the wand like the metal shavings were attracted to the magnet).

Also of note, when Jim was saying goodbye to me, he kept resting his hand on my shoulder, which was an inherently creepy gesture, having just met the man, but progressed to new creepster frontiers when you consider that he was standing behind me, while I was sitting in a chair, wearing one of those open-backed gowns, and receiving my "treatment."  What, was he doing there exactly? Attempting to get an extended side-boob glimpse?  Or was he just trying to engender a closer rapport with me - you know, on a therapist/patient level? 

It was my impression that physical therapy was a much more reputable form of treatment than dealing with a chiropractic "physician," but thus far, I'm not convinced.  Maybe they are hoping to appeal to the placebo effect with these treatments?  (Which is, to be fair, a powerful thing.) Still, the cynic in me wonders if they are simply padding my bills.  I'm paying $50 co-pays + the cost of "supplies" (ie: the pads that are used for the e-stim at $10 a pop).  My carrier is probably paying exponentially more.

I just want my freaking injuries to heal so that I can safely do yoga again and be able to go back to my weight lifting program.  Instead, it seems that I am getting bilked.  I'm also learning from experience that the most costly health care is not necessarily the most effective care (huge surprise, huh?).  At least, when I was scheduling my appointments for the next two weeks, I was fortunate enough to get time slots with a different PT named Virginia.  Let's hope she is better than ol' Jim. 

Om shanti.