Let go! Bid doc adieu and start again

Cooking isn’t a passion of mine, but I do enjoy feeding people. I wish I were Bobby Flay so my guests would salivate a week ahead of time in anticipation of my dinner party. Instead, I get a few modest burps after dinner. I think I make overall good food, but it isn’t J-Wow-alicious! That dude who always screams in Hell’s Kitchen would have a coronary over me.

Nonetheless, it's important for me to concentrate when I’m cooking. So getting paged by a patient usually takes my cooking down a notch in the Zagat’s ratings. Recently, I was slicing and dicing vegetables when I was paged by a Virginia pharmacy for a patient from years back— we haven’t been his doctors in over 14 months. Hello!

Don’t patients let go?

We closed our Virginia practice in February of 2010, moved to the Jersey shore, and gave all our charts to other medical practices. Though we sent letters to our patients to notify them of this change, though we posted the closing of our office in the newspaper— twice— and though we had all this information on our website for a year, we still get calls and correspondence from our former patients more than a year later.

Typical questions are, “Where is my chart? What is that doctor’s name? Will he sing like you?” “What was the name of that specialist you recommended over a year ago?” “I’m not feeling well. Can you prescribe me medicine?” (Sorry, Charlie, but that's illegal.) “Can I come up to still see you?” (Uh, that trip is 12 hours!)

Even my web designer somehow got a call from a patient standing outside our old office asking, “Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?”

Okay, I'm a little OCD when it comes to organization and finishing tasks; I realize I can't expect everyone to be like me. On the other hand, it concerns me that some of our former patients haven’t been seeing any doctor since we left. I understand that for many there was a grieving process (though I know for some more fickle patients, changing a doctor is no different than changing a diaper).To this day, 20 years after my parents retired from their medical practice, previous patients write them letters to let them know how things are going. I still keep in touch with quite a few of my former patients— hooray for email and Facebook!

It's sad to see how some folks don’t want to see another doctor. I know that for many the issue of trust can be a huge obstacle to seeing a new doctor. Trying on a new doctor can be scary, but patients should trust their current doctor’s referral to the new physician taking his or her place. The current doctor has a patient's best interest at heart!

Developing a good rapport between doctor and patient takes time, so many patients felt cheated in losing this relationship with me. It was hard for us to say goodbye.

It concerns me that patients are neglecting their health by not seeing a doctor. Our bodies are in many ways like cars: the longer between tune-ups, the more disastrous the breakdowns can become.

If you're one of these people I’m describing, I’m not doing a Gomer Pyle stunt of saying, “Shame, Shame, Shame!” with that big twang. I understand things aren’t always a piece of cake– ah, just don’t page me if I’m actually baking a cake.
Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with an interesting website, drjohnhong.com