Ben Reuter gives us a patient’s perspective on healthcare on this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver. Ben is from just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is episode 38 of the patient’s perspective interview marathon. It’s hard to believe that we are down to double digits left (just to spell it out, there’s only 99 interviews remaining.)
Here are 3 things that stood out as Ben Reuter provided a patient’s perspective on healthcare:
- Getting a recommendation from someone that you trust can be a real game changer when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider.
- There is great value in healthcare providers who encourage preventive measures, such as regular check-ups and diagnostic tests, to detect health issues early and prevent more severe problems down the line.
- Healthcare practitioners should prioritize patient care and proactive health measures over paperwork.
Here is the transcript of Rob Oliver’s interview with Ben Reuter from the patient’s perspective on healthcare interview marathon:
Introduction to Ben Reuter
Rob Oliver: Welcome to the podcast, my friend. What is your name?
Ben Reuter: My name is Ben Reuter.
Rob Oliver: All right. And where are you from, Ben?
Ben Reuter: I am calling in or I guess Interneting in, if that’s the correct terminology, from just about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Describe your patient experience in the healthcare system
Rob Oliver: Okay. And tell me, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your experiences in healthcare?
Ben Reuter: Sure. I may be a little bit different than some of your guests in a prior job. I’m currently an exercise physiologist working at the University, but in a prior job, I work for orthopedic surgeons as a physician extender as a certified athletic trainer. So I’ve been, quote, unquote in the trenches. But I’ve also had the good opportunity or bad opportunity as a patient through athletic injuries and through some eye injuries to see good medical care, bad medical care. And I’ve often joked with my dad, which I think he’s taken me serious more seriously as I’ve gotten older. Many of us spend more time looking for a mechanic for our car or choosing a model of car that we have than we do picking our health care provider. Just because somebody’s on your insurance policy doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best option for you. And if you’re fortunate enough to have the means to seek other health care providers that better meet your needs, then I encourage people to do it.
Rob Oliver: Yeah. So interesting that idea of shopping around right now. I guess the question is, how do you draw the line between shopping around and just going to find somebody who says what you want them to say? Does that make sense?
Ben Reuter: It makes absolute sense. And I think I’m in a little bit different situation than many people because I’ve got just enough education to be dangerous. I’ve had the good fortune when I worked as a physician extender to talk to physicians as individuals, not necessarily as a patient and a doctor. So one of the things that I’ve done in the past, if I have no idea, a great example. I’ve had a number of eye surgeries because of a preexisting condition. And when I first went to my eye doctor who identified it and said, you need to see this specialist here’s the guy I recommend. The first thing I did is I called a friend of mine who worked in the same hospital system that I was being recommended to. And I said, hey, ask the doctor that you work for. Is this guy a good guy? Is he somebody who’s going to be able to help me? And she called me back and said, my doctor took his 87 year old mother to him. And that to me kind of said, oh, that’s a good idea. Another I know one of your questions is asking about healthcare heroes, and I’ve got a number that I can talk about. I see a chiropractor athletic trainer on a regular basis for exercise tips for long rehabbing of back problems. He was recommended to me by two or three physicians as somebody who I might like to meet just as a professional. And when I saw him and talked to him, it was like, I want to use this guy. I want him to be part of my health care. And I’ve recommended him to other people. And they said to me across the board, inevitably, why have I not heard of this guy? Why is he not singing his praises of what he does? So there are good healthcare providers out there. You have to Hunt for them, asking your friends, asking friends and friends if you have a good relationship with one health care professional, asking them for advice. One of the ways I found a family practice physician who has since retired is I ask one of the assistants in an eye doctor that I had a good relationship. Hey, who do you recommend in this area? Who do you take your family to?
What makes a Healthcare Heroes?
Rob Oliver: Yes, getting those recommendations, it’s so important. And when you hear that somebody takes their 87 year old mom to this guy, it means a lot. So you kind of led me into this question and talk to me. Have you met any healthcare heroes along the way? And maybe the question is, who are they? Because you said, yes, I’ve met them.
Ben Reuter: Yeah. Well, I’m going to sing his praises because I have had nine surgeries from him and 15 procedures, not because of any fault from him, but I’ve got bad blueprints in my one eye, which makes me very, very nearsighted and susceptible to retinal tears. So Dr. Terry Versratten, who is in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, he is a retinal surgeon. Obviously, he is an excellent surgeon. He’s very highly regarded. But as far as a healthcare hero, I’ll just relate a story that I think does I had a number of problems. As I’ve said, there were times when the pressure in my eye was very high over the weekend. And I would have to call the emergency number to say, do I need to come in for surgery? Do I need to go to the emergency room? What do I do? And it happened one day in the middle of this. I called over the weekend for emergency care. And the doctor who happened to be on call was Doctor Versratten. And I still remember this. I mean, my eye is throbbing. I am six or seven procedures in. I’m not sure what’s going on. I’m not sure if I’m going to save the site in this eye. And he said he goes, what you’re describing, this is okay. We can wait until Monday. I don’t think it would be a problem. However, here’s my cell phone number. I’m going to be at the Steelers game. But if anything gets worse, please don’t hesitate to call that right there. No matter how bad the pain was, no matter how uncomfortable it was, there was just a sense of relief. It’s like, oh, I have somebody I have somebody who’s going to if I think it’s bad, he’s going to meet me at the hospital, and I still see him for regular checkups. And I highly recommend him not only because of his skill as a surgeon, but also his skill with the patient. He may be backed up in the waiting room with numerous patients. And if you need 25 or 30 minutes to talk to him about your problem, he’ll take it. And you’d never know that there were 25 or 30 people there. I have never complained about having to wait, and in some cases, two or 3 hours in the waiting room because there are patient schedule and things run behind because I know if he’s behind schedule, it’s not because he’s screwing around. It’s because there’s somebody there who needs his time. And he has taken seriously his role as a physician to talk to this person and potentially have the potential to save their eyesight.
Rob Oliver: Yeah, it’s amazing. I just go back to what you said before, a guy giving you his cell phone number and saying, I’m going to the Steelers game because here in Pittsburgh, Steelers are on the edge of a religious following. Definitely.
The meaning of quality healthcare
Rob Oliver: What does quality health care mean to you?
Ben Reuter: I think this plays into what you said a few minutes ago. How do you know if you’re shopping around versus looking for somebody who’s going to give you the answer? You want to live what you want to give? I think quality health care is, first of all, being able to get in to see the person. One of the things I do now for my family practice position is I pay extra money on top of my insurance. And I understand that I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford this so that if I have a problem, I can call his office and get in to see him that day. So accessibility, and I know that’s a huge problem with family practice positions I’ve had in the past. Sometimes you’re looking at two or three weeks to get in through no fault of their own because in many cases, the institutions have given them or assigned them 22,000 or 2400 patients. And there’s one doctor and that many patients. So accessibility, a willingness to listen to you and understand what’s important to you. If I’m going to see somebody for an orthopedic problem, what I want to do in my lifestyle is different from somebody who isn’t as active and also the willingness to answer questions I can recall with this particular family practice physician. I use Dr. Warshaw in Upper St. Claire Bethel Park. Before I decided to pay money to use his services, I had a list of like 25 questions. I set up a time to go in and interview him. There was no charge for that. He was also interviewing me as a patient. So I interviewed him because I had certain questions that I knew the answer I wanted, not because it’s the right answer, but I knew for me as a person the certain way he would deal with certain problems, that was the way that I would want my physician to deal with it, even if there was more than one correct way to deal with the problem, if that makes sense. So I think accessibility, willingness to understand that you’re going to have questions and a willingness to understand that what your needs or in some cases demands for what you have to do depending on your job may be different from somebody else’s.
What do you wish your medical providers understood about you?
Rob Oliver: Yeah, it’s so true. What do you wish your medical providers understood about you?
Ben Reuter: I think the ones I’ve mentioned understand me and understand about me, which is why I continue to go back to them when I’m fortunate or unfortunate enough to have problems in general, the understanding that one of the most important things to me is if there’s a way to avoid medication, I want to avoid the medication because when you’re seeing multiple patients a day, I know this from talking to physician friends and dealing with people who want an immediate answer. It’s like, okay, this hurts, or this is a problem. It’s very easy to say, well, let’s take this medicine and a great example of somebody who didn’t do this. And I think I would put him as a healthcare hero. Also is Dr. Robert Shilkin, who’s an orthopedic surgeon in the Pittsburgh area. I herniated a disc a few years ago. Again, I have enough knowledge to be dangerous. And as soon as I did it, it’s like, yes, that’s what I did. And I knew I wanted physical therapy. And I had seen him as a previous patient. And I went in and he looks at me and he examines me and he says, well, we’re going to get an MRI to make sure it’s not something serious. He said, what do you need? Do you need drugs? I said, well, it hurts, but I’d rather not have drugs. I’d rather just have physical therapy. So we got the MRI results. I go back for a follow up with him, and I still remember. He goes, how’s the pain? I said, It hurts like crazy. He goes, can you handle it? I said, yeah. I said, Is it getting better? I said, yeah. He said, do you want drugs? I said, no. He said, Well, let’s continue doing that. So as a health care provider, what I want. He listened to me multiple ways to deal with the problem, and he was willing to let me be partially in control, not tell him what to do. But what I said, my first words when I went into him is I think I herniated a disk and I don’t want opioids.
Rob Oliver: Yeah, it’s funny. You’ve got the self diagnosis and then you also have the plan of treatment in there to say, this is how it is, and this is how it’s going to be. I had a physician once who told me that if you listen to your patient long enough, they’ll tell you what’s wrong. And if you listen a little bit longer than that, they may even tell you how to fix it. So a spot on take from you.
An idea for improving healthcare quality
Rob Oliver: What is one thing medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of health care?
Ben Reuter: I think a lot of them are starting to do it as insurance becomes more and more problematic for them, they’re becoming entrepreneurs. So maybe ten or 15 years ago, I think even longer than that. When I worked with physicians, they worked for large corporations, many of them. The old story of the small town family doctor who would come to your house in an emergency really wasn’t financially feasible. And I think as people become more and more aware of their quality of life and how health relates to it and how they can do certain things and how sometimes seeing a medical professional before something becomes serious, just somebody for a yearly checkup, for example, more and more physicians and physical therapists and other professionals, the chiropractor I recognized, I mentioned Dr. P. Thomas. They are going out on their own. They’re becoming entrepreneurs. They’re taking the risk of not only do they have this medical education, but they’re saying, I want to be doctors. I know there’s a nationwide company called Steady MD that does virtual medicine. And I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a number of their physicians. And the reason they get physicians is they want to practice medicine. They don’t want to do paperwork, they don’t want to worry about getting insurance. I used Steady MD for a while before I found Dr. Warshaw. And I still remember that physician was the first one who mentioned, hey, you’re of the age, let’s get a coronary artery scan. I’m like, well, what’s that? They basically take a picture to see if there’s any calcification in your coronary arteries. And I’m like, sure, that sounds like a great idea because we identify if there’s a problem beforehand, we’re being Proactive and kind of to build on that. If people are listening to do this. I remember his assistant set up the appointment with the hospital, and the lady from the hospital calls me and says, well, your insurance doesn’t cover this. Do you still want to do it? I said, how much does it cost? She said, $175. And I’m thinking, they won’t pay insurance, won’t pay $175 for this test, which will show if I have the beginnings of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease in my heart, but they’d be more than willing to pay for drugs for the next 50 years. So I think getting beyond the physicians, getting people in the medical industry who are understanding, and many of them are doing this, fighting insurance and saying it’s not just about cost. If you pay the money now you’re going to save money down the line because you’re going to prevent problems before they become more serious.
Rob Oliver: A tremendous way to wrap up our time together. Listen, Ben, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for sharing. I appreciate you and I respect your perspective on health care.
Ben Reuter: Love what you’re doing, Rob. Good luck as you continue through the day. All right.
Rob Oliver: I appreciate it. Talk to you later, my friend. Bye.
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