The Online Review - A Mostly True Account of a Millennial Patient

There’d been an ugly cyst on my elbow since high school. It was small, maybe the size of a No. 2 pencil eraser and though unsightly, totally benign. It was the kind of thing a few specialists had looked at, and barring its grotesque nature, "shouldn’t be a significant problem." And for years it honestly wasn’t. There was a moment when I turned the corner though, and if I’m being honest with myself it was probably the 5th morning I woke up with bloody sheets. OK, it sounds worse than it was but without any context, I wasn't sure how many more times I could leave my bedroom looking like that scene from Reservoir Dogs before scooting off to work. I'd knock my elbow against the wall in the middle of the night, break the cyst and bam. Terrible morning. Sounds insane right? I can't make this stuff up.

I'm not entirely sure why I had hesitated. Probably because it seemed overwhelming and indescribably “grown up.” The kind of thing that, with just an English degree and like six good years of work experience that I still wasn’t fully qualified to work on. My HR rep had done his best though. He’d deftly given me the ins and outs of my insurance specific plan, my explanation of benefits, my co-pays and how I was to deal with virtually any situation that should arise. I learned things and felt productive and thrilled in defying the millennial stigma. You know the one: that we're all lazy and have no real ambition? Here I was, stepping off my parents’ insurance plan and getting my own. And even though I rarely used it, I carried the card and felt warm and bubbly in the knowledge that should the unspeakable sashay across my path I'd be protected. But it didn’t really come up. I guess I live a pretty safe life. I don’t drive now that I live in New York City, I don’t smoke and I rarely deal with shellfish.

So I went about the task of finding a specialist in New York City. I knew which resources were afforded me and used them to my full advantage, poring through pages and pages of medical ratings sites, cross referencing them with my own insurance plan’s database and committing written testimonials to memory while I plotted bus routes. 

But I was in New York City and had all the best professionals at my immediate disposal. 10 hours of researching led me to settle on a particular physician. Dr. Jones (name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent). He was specialized in all the "right" areas for my cyst. He had all the right credibility from all the right web sources, his social media game was top notch and his star ratings nearly flawless. Also, he was popular, which meant I’d have to wait 2-3 weeks before getting in. It was a measure of quality control though, and I could handle that. 

After jimmying around his state-of-the-art phone scheduling system for a few minutes (when technology actually makes things more difficult) I received a quick text notification assuring me I’d gotten in. How fulfilling and futuristic! All without speaking to an actual human. I felt I’d make a good decision and that having performed the necessary and painstaking research, would now reap the wholesome benefits of a perfect health care system designed with people like me in it. 

It took me 2 whole hours to get out to his Dr. Jones’ palatial office in the Upper West Side. Upon entering, I felt I’d just discovered the secret palace of Elysium, all white and chrome finished and frictionless. It was a sleek and modern office flanked by chrome finished trim and gorgeous high rise windows opening out to that unmistakable city view. For a moment, I forgot this was the medical facility that'd be slicing my elbow open and I reached for my phone to document it on Snapchat. (I did say I was a millennial).  Even an extra 40 minutes in the waiting room couldn’t dampen my spirits too much. That view!

I already knew what Dr. Jones looked like because I’d seen him on his website. He seemed like a “big deal.” His chin was square. His voice conveyed varying shades of hurriedness, preoccupation and detachment.  Launching to the chase, I opened up the meeting. “So, I guess I have a pyogenic -”

He cut me off. “There’s an additional $40 co-pay for this visit. Did my assistant tell you about this?”

I began to explain my insurance situation. He held up his hand. “Discuss it with my assistant.”

He briefly looked at the cyst, told me it’d need to be removed and then swiftly moved off to another appointment. It was strange and all so brief I almost wasn’t sure what had actually happened. Was I supposed to make another appointment? Would I have to wait an additional 3 weeks to do it? And what’s with that extra $40 co pay on top of the one I was already paying? Frustration started welling in me, growing ugly and unchecked like the cyst on my elbow. I sat another few seconds in his empty office, my unanswered questions now swirling around my head in a deafening cacophony. 

“That’s just an additional $40 we charge. New York City is expensive,” explained the assistant to me. “It’s all explained very clearly on the website.” It wasn’t though, and when I contested this point she grew belligerent. I'd now sunk close to four hours into this appointment and knew I wouldn’t be making a return appointment anyway. Now I had an axe to grind on this internet recommended physician. All my research and well-intended hair splitting, all the time and effort I’d put in just to GETTING to the resplendent office, all that time I could never get back...all to basically chalk up to a very expensive consultation.

So that’s why I work with Dr. Borne now (name has been changed to protect the innocent). His office isn’t anywhere near as nice but it’s close to me in Queens. I’m told he sometimes takes consultation visits in his house if the occasion permits. His online presence is scant and his reviews are few (though commendable). He does not have his own website or an expensive billboard in the city. We talk about wrestling though because he was a big fan in the 80’s. And because his office is close, I know that if I call him, he’ll answer. 

In fact, when he removed the cyst on my elbow, he did it in about 15 seconds, just hacking the sucker off almost before I could even process it. I wanted to give the guy a medal. Afterwards, he wrapped up my arm and gave me his usual admonishment. “Don’t knock over any trash cans I wouldn’t knock over!” I don't really understand what it means but I've started using it in my own conversations. Dr. Borne is kinda old school like that. On the bus home, I got an Email. “How would you rate your experience with Doctor Borne?” beckoned the subject. I laughed and quickly keyed in a 5 star response. Doctor Borne got the job done and old school or not, I knew he needed that online review.