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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quack In a Box

I have heard the term, “Quack In a Box” as a reference to the doctors in urgent care type places. This insulting reference is commonplace around here. Not sure if it’s just typical to this area or is a widespread problem. Many people have shared with me some bad stories of ending up at these places. Now, I have my own.

I ended up at an urgent care place because my doctor is out of town and has left no backup doctor. I couldn’t get in to see any other doctor this week and being very ill, I needed some help badly. I didn’t want to go to an urgent care type place because I had heard many stories about the bad care others had received, but I felt I didn’t have much choice. I have been sick for 5 days and feel I am getting worse.

When I went in, the facility was new and nice looking. The staff was courteous and I was seen in a relatively short time. The doctor was nice and friendly. That is where the positives stop.

The doctor came in, asked how long I was sick and what my symptoms were and then asked an unbelievable question. He asked me what medicines I wanted. I was like, huh? He asked me again what I thought I needed. I was like, “I just want to feel better. I want help with relief of the cough and other symptoms.” He said, do you want cough syrup or antibiotics? I was like, “Do you even want to look at my throat to check for strep or listen to my lungs?” He said he didn’t think it could be strep unless I was around someone who had it. “How do I know if I was or not?” I asked. “Don’t you think you should at least look at my throat since I have swelling?” He sighed and looked for a nano second without a tongue depressor and said, “Nope, no problem.” He did listen to my lungs and heart for a few seconds, but I wasn’t able to take any deep breaths. When I told him that, he shrugged.

He then said, “If you want, I can give you some cough syrup and antibiotics if you want.” I was like, “Will the cough syrup make me really drowsy?” He said he didn’t know and to try it out and see. I was, “Look, I just need help to feel better so I can take care of my son and work.” He said, “Well, you can see how you feel in a few days and then take the antibiotic if you feel you need it.”

I was speechless. I was so dumbfounded with the lack of proper care. I’m no medical expert, but even I know when you have the kind of symptoms I have, you may need some kind of steroid or something for the inflammation and help for the cough. And you need to examine the patient, not ask them what they think they need! The medical expert needs to make a decision on what care and what medicines are needed, not leave it up to the patient!

I remember sitting there waiting for him to come back with my prescription and wondering if I had a heart attack and stopped breathing would he ask me what form of CPR I wanted. I should have complained, but feeling so bad and just wanting to get home I was willing to take what he was willing to give me. I should have told him my back hurt and requested Oxy Contin, Vicodin, Percasets and whatever else sells good on the street.

I should have been told as well the high cost of the cough syrup, though I doubt he knew. The syrup was $50 and that was with insurance! Add the $50 co-pay I had to pay for going to an urgent care facility and I’m $100 poorer with very little to show for it. Sheesh! I should have asked for some Preparation-H to go with all that!

I would report my experience, but I’m not sure where or to whom. I doubt it would do any good anyway. Now, unfortunately I have my own “Quack In a Box” story to tell.


  1. Julie, this kind of thing is why we wish there were some better regulation of who can call themselves an "urgent care" and who can't. In some areas, many "pill mills" use the urgent care moniker, and it's obviously a bad thing. There is such a thing now as a Certified Urgent Care (yes, our association does the certifying) that helps patients pick out a true urgent care center vs. something like what you stumbled into. I'm sorry for your bad experience.

    Lou Ellen Horwitz
    Executive Director
    Urgent Care Association of America

  2. Thanks Lou Ellen for bring attention to the fact that there are certified Urgent Care's out there. Hopefully this will raise the bar and help to provide better urgent care for those who need it.



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