New Brunswick — With the declining health of a rapidly aging New Brunswick population, doctors are crumbling under the pressure and are simply searching WebMD for answers in an effort to see more patients in less time.
Fredericton family doctor Tim Bartlett, 53, said he used to attend medical conferences at least monthly to broaden his knowledge. “Not anymore,” he said, sighing. “I just don’t have the time or the energy to look for health-care innovation; I’m trying to see as many patients as possible while also taking as much vacation time as possible.”
The solution to the time crunch? WebMD, a user-friendly American website that allows people to enter symptoms and turn out simple answers with regard to their complex bodies and minds. “All I do is plunk in the patient’s symptoms along with their age and gender, and this site tells me everything I need to know to get them out the door as quickly as possible,” said an impressed Bartlett. “When they sit down in my office, I don’t even have to bring up their chart to get a fairly accurate reading of their issues. Half the time they’ve searched the site themselves prior to the appointment, so they just tell me what drug they need, and I write the prescription. It couldn’t be easier. I mean, unless I could just do it over email without actually seeing them — hopefully we’re moving in that direction.”
Patient Kaily Morehouse, 28, said she’s been attempting to see Dr. Bartlett, her family physician, for the past few months, but her appointments are continually rescheduled to accommodate Bartlett’s vacation time, paternity leave and business trips. “And last time I saw him he didn’t even seem to know who I was,” she said, exasperated. “He just came in, slumped in front of his computer and mumbled something about a slow Internet connection. I told him I had decreased appetite, fatigue and a bit of a fever. He punched some things into his computer and proclaimed me to have something called ‘cat scratch disease,’ which I guess is a bacterial infection caused by a cat scratch or bite. I don’t even have a cat.”
Bartlett is currently looking for a way to print prescriptions straight from the website so he no longer has to go to the hassle of pulling out a pen, taking the cap off and scrawling an illegible phrase. “Can’t I just hit the ‘print’ button? I mean, is this not 2015!?” he huffed before leaving his office.