I apologize if this comes off as a rant. It sort of is a rant, but more so, a question on how a similar experience can be bettered in the future.
But before I go on, some back story. Mid-December last year, I unexpectedly developed a rash of some sorts. It appeared out of the blue and would last no longer than 30-60 minutes. But it would happen daily, without fail. The rash would be a series of bumps and raised welts that were harmless save for the intense itching. It appeared in random places all over my body, as if a little bug was playing hopscotch. The curious, pre-med student that I am, I decided to look online to see what may be the causes/treatments of such a case. I understand the downsides of “self-diagnosing” and the toll that Google has had on doctors as patients barge in insisting that they have 1 of 10,000 different diseases. So everything I learned, I took in with a grain of salt. From pictures and descriptions, I came up with a “preliminary diagnosis” – hives. And I took all the necessary precautions to combat such a skin rash. I dusted my entire room, laundered my entire wardrobe, discarded soaps and detergents in favor of fragrance-free products, and watched for any triggers in food, temperatures, and conditions. When I could not come up with an explanation, two weeks later, I entertained the idea that these hives could be triggered by stress – mainly due to the MCAT.
Sort of depressing, right? That my anxiety over this huge academic exam was giving me hives – what happens when I am actually in medical school? But I sucked it up and continued to study, while itching here and there. After the MCAT, I awaited the departure of my hives. But they did not leave. Instead, they came in waves throughout the following weeks, and at one point, so intensely, that my mother agreed that I should go to the doctor and get it checked out.
As much as I adore my primary care physician, I reasoned that it would be best if I went directly and saw an allergist or dermatologist (since I really can’t afford to pay two visits). I messaged my physician (yay technology) and described my entire experience thus far, even attaching some pictures. Unfortunately, because my PCP was not in that day, another doctor replied on my behalf and simply told me to schedule an appointment with her. So I begrudgingly did just that – and on the day of my hospital visit (which, by the way, was about a 30-mile drive), I forked over $50 to see my PCP. Who immediately told me that she would need to refer me to an allergist. Fortunately, I was able to snag an appointment with the allergist later that day. So after four hours of soaking in the sun in my car, I went to see the allergist – BUT NOT BEFORE forking over another $60 as a second co-payment. Of course with my luck, my rash had not appeared on any part of my body, so when I ended up seeing her, I had to use my words and pictures to paint what was going on. With only a glance at one of my pictures, she determined that I had urticaria – most commonly known as ….. hives. And it was idiopathic (a disease or condition the cause of which is not known or that arises spontaneously). The treatment? A $10 over-the-counter prescription.
I took one pill last night and the rash has completed subsided. Not a trace at all. Go Cetirizine!
But was a $10 over-the-counter prescription worth the $110 that I forked over for co-payments + payments for lab tests + half a day wasted + gas + 60 miles driven in total?
I honestly don’t think so. I understand that visits to your primary care physicians sort of filter out visits to specialists and are “supposed” to be more economically advantageous. And this way, PCPs can oversee what’s going on. But in this case, I feel like I was cheated out of a good deal of money for a treatment that I could have picked up at my local CVS. I guess I wish I was taken a little more seriously – I mean, I do have a brain and am somewhat educated, y’know? Could there have been a better way for all of this to go down?
P.S. – On a lighter note, during my hospital visit, I got an email confirming my placement in Thailand for the fall. I’ll be working at hospitals abroad and learning about the healthcare system there – super stoked!