Several months ago I had the bad luck of catch Strep Throat. Since I’ve had it several times in my life, I pretty much knew I had without having to see a doctor. But if you want antibiotics to treat it, you need to go see a doctor.
Before I continue, let me just say that the main reasons you want to treat Strep Throat with antibiotics is two-fold. Firstly in rare cases it can easily prevent some pretty severe complications. And secondly, you’re much less contagious.
In any case, I initially tried to see my family doctor but unfortunately he was unavailable for whatever reason, maybe he was on vacation or something, I just can’t remember. (by the way my current family doctor is the best doctor I’ve ever had – not only is he good, but he also cares!). Because I couldn’t see him, I went to a local walk-in medical clinic.
The doctor saw me, did a quick swab test, and of course the results came back positive for Strep Throat. However, for whatever reason, the walk-in doctor didn’t want to prescribe me any antibiotics. She was very adamant, saying that my body could, and should, fight it off naturally.
Now I understand there is a lot of abuse going on with antibiotics, but Strep Throat is an infection that can potentially lead to serious complications in some cases if not treated, and it was 100% certain I had it. Sure it might go away naturally, but let me tell you, once you meet someone who’s experienced the serious complications from this infection, you understand why they recommend treating it. So why not take the antibiotics, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Plus, I’d be a lot less contagious.
But she refused. She said to go home, relax, and come back in a few days if got worse. So I left. But after a few hours, I had second thoughts and called the clinic. I explained that I had been diagnosed with Strep Throat, that the tests were 100% positive, and that it was highly recommended by the medical establishment to treat it with antibiotics. Not just to help fight the infection, but to help prevent any potential complications from the infection. Talking to doctor via the receptionist, she basically informed me the doctor really didn’t want to treat me with antibiotics and to come back in a few days if it got worse. I pushed some more and since it was near closing time, the receptionist said they would have to call me tomorrow.
The next day I decided to get a second opinion since I hadn’t heard anything by lunch time. I went to another walk-in clinic and saw another doctor. He quickly did another swab test and it was also positive for Strep Throat. He immediately gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I mentioned about the other doctor who refused to give me antibiotics, and asked why she wouldn’t just to get a better understanding. He said he had no idea, that with Strep Throat you should always give antibiotics. Again, this isn’t a sore throat, it’s a confirmed (now twice confirmed) case of Strep Throat.
Two or three days later, I forget now, I got a call from the initial medical clinic. This time the receptionist said that the original doctor that saw me wasn’t in today, but another doctor from the clinic would like to talk to me on the phone. She said, and I’m trying to remember the exact words as best as I can here: “You have Strep Throat and we HAVE to treat it with antibiotics. You can come in within the next hour to pick up a prescription, I’ll leave it at the front.”
Now you may ask, what was the point of this whole story? And how is it related to feedback? Well, if you look at the first doctor, she basically refused to treat Strep Throat with antibiotics. Since she’s not my family doctor, once I leave the clinic, she has no way of knowing whether her treatment was effective. Or worse yet, whether her treatment (or lack of treatment) helped or made things worse. She can only assume that things got better.
Let’s take this one step further. Let’s say her lack of treating me with antibiotics caused a rare kidney complication from the Strep Throat. How would she ever know unless I returned to tell her about it? She can’t know, and therefore she can’t learn from her mistakes. As far as she can tell her treatment was very effective since I didn’t come back.
How rare are the complications? I don’t know. But did you know it’s speculated that Mozart, the famous composer, may have died due to a kidney failure complication because of Strep Throat. Although rare, it does happens. But what’s worse is it’s so easy to prevent.
Getting back to our story, let’s say there are complications in 10% of the cases. How can any doctor from a walk-in medical clinic know (and learn) on the effectiveness of their treatments? As far as the first doctor who treated me can tell, there were no complications. No one came back. Although they might have ended up in a hospital, she wouldn’t know. She might not even be aware that another doctor from her very own clinic treated me with antibiotics. She could theoretically believe her treatment was right and continue treating her other patients the same way, re-enforcing her belief that her treatment (or lack of) works. A vicious cycle. And it’s really not her fault, there’s no way for her to know if it isn’t working.
Which is why it’s so important to have a family doctor. Unlike a walk-in clinic doctor who you’ll only see once, or maybe a few times over the years, your family doctor is going to be following-up with you on an on-going basis. Your family doctor is going to be getting feedback on their treatments. They’re going to see the results of their treatments firsthand and learn from them. They’ll know what works and what doesn’t. It’s not necessarily that one is better than the other (although it may be case), it’s that one has the chance to see the results of their actions, and learn from them, while the other doesn’t.
Feedback is the key! Without feedback how can you learn anything? How can you know if something really works if you never get to see the results of your actions? Feedback is the key ingredient in learning!