I went to the doctor yesterday.
This was after suffering the better part of nine days from a form of sinusitis that my doctor suspected was brought upon by the drought here in and around Austin, Texas.
Our lake levels are near an all-time low because of the drought, and apparently, the low levels of moisture in the air are filling our skies with some new molds and other allergens the doctor says they've never had to contend with, and that he and his counterparts had been flooded with office visits with very similar symptoms as mine.
Fortunately, he was able to give me some immediate relief through an injection of "Kenalog," a steroid-like substance which, I discovered ex post facto, is not without its own controversy.
After a week of suffering, it wouldn't have mattered -- I was ready to sign that release and get some relief.
I'm happy to say not even 24 hours later I'm feeling much better and my sinuses have begun to open back up.
But what really got my attention while I was in the doc's office was a phone conversation I overheard between one of his nurses and, I'll assume, a patient. The nurse was trying to explain to the patient that it was pretty evident the "fax" had been lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way, which was the cause of why the patient hadn't received whatever prescription they were obtaining.
And that, my friends, is everything you need to know about the state of the American healthcare information system, as far as I'm concerned.
Which is ironic to me, considering the recent experience and process I went through to ultimately be put on a CPAP "breathing" machine that is intended to help me sleep through the night with limited "apneas."
I talked about this in a recent post, and I say it's ironic because with the particular physician who conducted two sleep tests on me and ultimately prescribed the CPAP machine, I don't think his office could have been more technologically advanced.
First, all of the paperwork he needed for my return visit (he'd done surgery on me for sleep apnea back in 2005, but the records were now outdated), I was able to gather and/or produce via a web-based data entry system on his website.
That was the fastest doctor form-filling I've ever done for a medical office in my life!
Second, his office has to be one of the most timely I've ever visited. Nearly every visit I had there, I was promptly brought back to see him near the exact time of my appointment.
It didn't escape my notice that his office now had a tablet computing infrastructure, which he was clearly using for both scheduling and patient notes and follow-ups.
Information moved through that office like greased lightning. Take that, Marcus Welby!
But it doesn't end there.
A week later, once I got my CPAP machine, the equipment provider walked me through the use of the machine, and explained that I could go in every night and check the data to see how many apneas I was averaging on a nightly and weekly basis.
Business analytics for my newly-restive sleep patterns at my fingertips!
But it gets even better even as I get more rest!
The machine "writes" data to an SD card which I will be bringing back to the physician for him to "check" my sleep vitals at our next visit, and moreover, there's a NASA scientist who has written a sleep analytics program called "SleepyHead" that will allow me to conduct some of my own analysis during the interim to determine how the machine was helping me and the impact it was having on my sleep habits.
Honestly, it's the idea of physicians and medical institutions still heavily dependent on fax machines that's now keeping me awake at night!