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Doorknob Syndrome
A Dangerous New Malady YOU COULD HAVE and Not Even Know About!

As a health care professional working in "Alternative" Medicine, it is important to keep up on all the latest trends in both the Conventional and Alternative worlds. So while watching the news one day, I saw a lead-in for an upcoming piece on "Doorknob Syndrome", a new malady being seen in increasing numbers by doctors. Unfamiliar with this condition, I naturally waited through the commercials to learn about it. I was expecting to hear of some new version of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or perhaps some other workplace-related repetative strain injury.

Imagine my shock and horror, then, when "Doorknob Syndrome" turned out to be the formal name given by Conventional doctors to the phenomenon of a patient daring to ask just one more question as the doctor has his or her hand on the doorknob to leave the exam room!

The short "news" story was in fact nothing more than a propoganda piece aimed at trying to keep patients from asking their doctors too many questions!

In modern HMO and insurance company driven medicine, office visits with doctors are short: an average of 5 minutes is typical. In actual fact, this is ludicrous! There is barely time to get past "Hello" in that amount of time, let alone make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. As the kind, grandfatherly-looking doctor in the "news" spot explained, when you, the patient, have the audacity to ask another question about another symptom or condition, you are stealing time from the doctor by making him or her late for their next 5 minute patient visit. Nowhere did this infomercial acknowledge the fact that you, the patient, are in fact a paying customer! The whole piece smacked of trying to make viewers feel guilty for wanting to ask questions of (gasp) A DOCTOR!

Finding out how this piece made it past the editors and onto the air as a "news" article would be an interesting investigation into modern, journalistic ethics, not to mention the questionable medical ethics that lie behind the whole "Doorknob Syndrome" phenomenon.

As you might guess, the roots of the Doorknob Syndrome attitude lie in with the insurance companies who only re-imburse doctors a fixed amount of money for each office visit, and a limit of one diagnosis per visit. If doctors take too much time to work with patients, even if treating more than one condition or symptom in the visit, they usually can only be reimbursed for one visit per 24 hour period. As a result, their desire is to treat each symptom in a separate office visit. While this may make "sense" from the standpoint of insurance payments, it seldom makes sense from the point of view of the patient.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am highly aware of the holistic model of a human being -- every part of your mind, body, emotions and spirit are connected to and interact with every other part. The symptoms patients forget to mention until late in the visit are often the key to a successful diagnosis and treatment. Patients might be embarrased about a condition, or simply afraid to bring it up because it could be potentially serious. It may take some patients time to develop a raport with and trust a doctor enough to bring up some symptoms they have.

If you want truly holistic health care and doctors who really listen to you, you will have a better chance finding it in the world of holistic and alternative medicine. Naturopathic Doctors are specifically taught the importance of taking time with each patient, and treating them as a unique individual. The average time a Naturopathic doctor spends with new patients on a first visit is one and a half hours. Also, most Naturopathic doctors don't double book or triple book appointment times the way many conventional doctors do. When an appointment time is scheduled, that time is yours and no one else's. Double booking apointment times is certainly another factor contributing to this "Doorknob" phenomenon.


Copyright 2004-2005 by Dr. Arlan Cage, ND, MS and South Bay Total Health. No part of this website may be reproduced by any means without the express, written permission of the website owner.


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