Don't get me started on United not only assigning people to PCPs without any patient input, but giving them NONEXISTENT doctors like Dr. D, with wrong phone numbers yet. I was curious what happened to him, and tracked him down (Google is your friend). He's now in Virginia - a little far to travel! And his credentials do not match Dr. H's (who went to the same universities I did, in reverse order), though maybe I'm being a snob and he could be a wonderful doctor. Should I be insulted that they assigned me a doctor whose subspecialty is geriatrics?
Not knowing for sure if Dr. H was still officially my PCP, I went to my appointment (which was actually with a resident, since Dr. H is on vacation. I am fine with going to different doctors in this practice, but don't want to start with a new group). Before leaving, I emailed my new insurance info through the practice's site. Turns out that went only to Dr. H's assistant R, who was not there. The check-in person said he had no access to that email and I didn't have the info on me, so he had to enter me as self-pay and said I could update when I got the bill. Great. More red tape. They did give me a nice desk calendar as a holiday gift (I do like this group).
I didn't visit just to get a gift. I was having slight, intermittent pain in my ears since early November, and got Debrox to clean them (maybe there was impacted wax), which didn't have much effect. I use Q-tips and know you're not supposed to, though they haven't unearthed much in ages (did I stop making wax?). A few weeks ago, I noticed a hard lumpy area deepish in front of the right ear that had no equivalent on the left side. I emailed Dr. H, hadn't heard back, finally called (he's away, and it's also possible the email went into a black hole), and decided to have the resident take a look. Google is not always your friend when it comes to this sort of thing. There are Bad Things it could be, as well as many not so bad. If I needed surgery, had a nasty infection, or was about to go deaf, I couldn't wait another month to get the PCP situation straightened out. And if referrals were needed, it made no sense to have another PCP coordinating.
The resident checked my ears, found them exceptionally clean (so there's no wax problem), didn't see signs of infection, and didn't think the lumpy area was anything alarming. An attending also came in and examined me, with the same conclusion. They advised no more Debrox, Q-tips, or even touching the area as I may be irritating it even more. We'll keep an eye on it, and they'll refer me to an ENT if necessary.
In passing, I mentioned I used earplugs recently (the calendar shows it was for events on November 5 and December 15, which meshes with the timing of the symptoms), and this could be the cause of the problem. Even though I use small-size plugs, they aren't easy to insert in my narrow ear canal and aren't very comfortable. Not sure why one ear is worse, though.
Today I got two relevant calls. The United supervisor called as promised, and reaffirmed that I would be changed to Dr. H, effective back to 1/1. I'm wondering if they are letting everyone do this, or only if you got a nonexistent PCP. I got off and checked the system, and the change was not on my card. I called back and they told me to try again Monday, so we'll see if they confused which doctor I wanted, or if they are just slow. Maybe it's just as well the practice doesn't have my new insurance info, if United's system still has the wrong PCP.
The other call was from the practice following up on the visit and asking if I had any questions. Did I say I like this group? I had been Googling again (neither friend nor foe) researching medication to lubricate my ear since it's apparently dry. But I wasn't sure what was effective, and much of it was prescription. Another doctor from the group called back later, said prescription drops couldn't hurt, and sent an order to Duane Reade. Turns out they are out of the drops and there's a delay, but it's not urgent (and it's COLD, so I wasn't planning to go out anyway). I also asked if they could get the insurance data from R, if she was there, so I could avoid a billing hassle. I'll call her Monday to make sure.
And to think I used to work for this evil health insurance industry...