Friday, June 1, 2007

A doctor's office made of paper and glass

Yesterday, I had an appointment at my doctor's office to have some trigger point injections. This is, basically, when they inject a local anesthetic into my aching muscle knots. It helps take the edge off of some of my back and hip pain for a couple of weeks, and I thought this would be a good idea prior to our upcoming summer road trip and camping adventure. I'm hoping a little lidocaine in my ass will make sitting in the car for hours and lying on the ground all night comfortable.

I tried to keep track of the amount of material my appointment used. The clinic has a pretty sophisticated computer system, and most of my file goes directly onto a computer, but I still left an impressive trail of paper, glass, and plastic.

There is a piece of paper and pen where I signed in when I arrived. Not sure of the point of this, since there is always someone at the desk to take my name and note my arrival on the computer before I'm done writing it.

I got a big and a little receipt for my copay (one the office receipt and one the card receipt--not sure using cards rather than cash to pay for things really reduces the paper trail yet).

I got a piece of paper on a clipboard to fill out a satisfaction survey, in which I was asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 such statements as, "The doctor makes me feel important," but not, for example, whether the office has done a good or bad job remembering to get correct insurance authorization prior to my monthly office visits and occasional procedures (they haven't, but I sure do feel like a queen when I leave the exam room).

Then they asked me to sign an electronic consent form for the procedure with a stylus on a computer screen.

Once in the exam room, I used a paper gown (though this was only because they had run out of cloth), the paper on the exam table, and all the materials involved in the injection, which included a big fat scary needle, some cotton for swabbing the injection sites, and a few glass bottles of medication, plus the plastic wrappers everything came in.

I got a prescription form, and I know all prescriptions at that office must be photocopied onto a full size sheet of paper for their records.

I also grabbed a paper cup of water while I was waiting to make my next appointment, then got a small card to use as a reminder of my next appointment time.

I used my car to drive across town for the appointment, and to drive to the pharmacy afterward. And the pharmacy gave me a bottle with medication inside, a small paper bag for the bottle, a piece of paper with prescription information stapled to the bag, and a receipt.

The garbage generated from this one visit probably equals the amount in the tortilla chip bag holding my kitchen garbage right now, though it smells better than molding taco night plate scraps.