Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If it's this hard for NYT medical writer Gina Kolata to get treated, what chance do the rest of us have?

Gina Kolata reports on science and medicine for the New York Times. Her account of injuring her foot while running offers some useful information for runners about an effective treatment for extensor tendinitis.
I had run way too far for my level of training, and I knew it. But I had gotten lost, and the fastest way back to my car was to run. The next day, my left forefoot hurt so much I could hardly walk, so I did just what you might expect — I checked the Internet to see what sort of injury I might have and what to do about it.

My search was frustrating and unhelpful. But I ended up getting just the advice I needed from an unexpected source. And I came away with this lesson: These days, when it is oh so easy to order sophisticated medical tests, sometimes the best test, and the best treatment, can be low-tech.
For those of us not suffering from extensor tendinitis, it's what the article says between the lines that's really striking, beginning with Kolata's search for an orthopedist who would take her health insurance and find time in his schedule to examine her. By the time she saw him, she had found out about extensor tendinitis from a physician in Tulsa who emailed her after reading her account of her injury, which she mentioned in passing in an article about running while hurt.
On Jan. 16, I finally saw the orthopedist and, of course, mentioned extensor tendinitis. All I got was a cursory exam and an X-ray. When the X-ray showed normal bone, the orthopedist said I needed an M.R.I. His office said someone would call me when my insurer approved it. Then I could schedule it. Then I could return to see the doctor and learn what the scan showed.
Read the story to find out how she went out of network to get the injection which cost her $277 and immediately solved the problem. Then ask yourself what would have happened to you if you had the same injury, without her advantages as a NYT medical reporter.

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