Opinion | Off the Cuff

Waiting for an app that will do away with a trip to the clinic

The health insurance company thought I didn’t need vitamins ...

  • By Mahmood Saberi, Senior reporter
  • Published: 00:00 October 24, 2012
  • Gulf News

I don’t see why we need to sit for hours to see a doctor now that we have these great gadgets that tell you what’s wrong, in a jiffy.

I dread sitting in a clinic as it seems a very unhealthy place; it seems even unhealthier than most of the offices where people can get sick faster than you can say: “No overtime”.

For some reason, everyone also seems to fall sick on a weekend; you never see these long queues of people coughing, women moaning and children screaming on any other day of the week. It’s like everything’s planned days in advance for the Friday: “We will first go to the doctor in the morning, then for a vegan lunch and phone your mother-in-law after we drop off Sonny for his karate class.”

The last time I went to a clinic, I swear the people who were waiting seemed like the same people who were waiting last week. The only difference then was that everyone was looking down at the smartphones in their hands.

The other day, the receptionist at the clinic said the doctor was booked solid, but I could “walk in” if I wished. I don’t think I understood the concept of “walk in”, because when I walked into the clinic, I was told there were six patients ahead of me.

I started calculating — at an average of 10 minutes per person, I would be stuck there for a good hour — as I picked up a magazine that was just tossed on the table by a child with a really bad runny nose.

As I sat down, the electronic signboard lit up and a disembodied voice said: “7063, please go to room nine”. Suddenly, everyone looked down at the tiny slips in their hands. One man got up with a huge smile on his face and looked at all of us as if to say: “That’s me, you losers,” as he limped proudly to room number nine.

I looked at my slip (in some places it is called a ‘token’, like, “Please take this ‘token’ of my good faith”) and it said 584. I panicked. “How could 7063 go before 584?” I thought to myself. “Did I faint, did I fall unconscious in my chair all this while?” I wondered, biting my nails. “There must be something seriously wrong with me!”

Over the next hour, I learned the name of the brat who was banging his foot on the glass table. I learned that Ramu would be going to Mrs Vic’s house at 4pm to fix her kitchen tap and that Chotu has finally got a seat in a prestigious school in the US.

When finally I got the prescription, I ran next door to the pharmacist, only to see a long queue again. “Can I see your insurance card please,” said the pharmacist. I pulled it out of my wallet and it must have been the fifth time I pulled it out of my wallet that day.

He looked at me and then at the prescription and then called the insurance company. “Maybe, he thinks I am not that sick, only pretending, so that I can rip off the insurers,” I told myself. “Sorry, you will have to pay for the vitamins,” he told me after a long conversation with the insurer.

“But that’s only Dh23!” I said with a surprise, because the other medicine for my cholesterol was like Dh500 and that did not seem to raise any eyebrows with the insurers.

As I looked at the medical gadgets around in the pharmacy — from weight tracking devices, blood pressure monitors to glucose meters — I prayed there would be apps in the future on my smartphone that would do away with a visit to the busy doctor’s clinic and the pharmacy.

Gulf News
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