Sunday, November 12, 2006

a visit to the hospital in Korea

Big hospitals here are very interesting. They are very much computerized... well...
For example, at the Asan Hospital, when you get your blood taken, first you stand in a line at the first counter and hand them the doctor's request form. They put it in the computer and give you a number. There are then 8 or 10 numbered stalls along another counter to the back of the room near the wall. You wait until your number is up to go to that specific stall. At each end of the counter, there is a machine that spits out labeled vials into trays, and then sends them down a mini conveyer belt to the correct stall, so when your number is up, your pre-labeled vials are there waiting for you. A lady takes your blood and off you go.
When you go to see a doctor, things are also in the computer. Where I have to go, there is a front waiting room with the check in counter. On the wall to the side of the counter, there is a screen that lists the names of the patients that have checked in, in the order they are waiting. Once you are about 4th on the list, you go further inside to wait. There are screens beside each doctor's room, each listing 5 names: the patient that is currently with the doctor, and the next 4 in line. As soon as the person in with the doctor comes out, the next person on the list goes in. You don't need someone to tell you it is your turn. There is a little counter in the middle of the area with a girl that takes the clipboard that the doctor gives you and puts info into the computer.
For prescriptions: After you talk to a doctor, and he issues you a prescription, you go out into the main halls where there are prescription machines here and there (near every door, and in many places between). You go to one of the machines and put your hospital card in and it will spit out your prescription on two pages: one for you and one for the pharmacy. When you leave the hospital, where the bus stop is, there are guys standing around waiting for people with prescriptions. They will ask you where you want to go (you have a choice of a few pharmacies that are linked to the hospital), and they will put you with which ever driver goes to the pharmacy of your choice. Luckily for me, one of the pharmacies is a short walk from my home, so I basically get a free ride home. Not that it really matters, as the bus that goes past the hospital stops across the street from that (only the 3rd stop from the hospital). I am guessing that the drivers get paid by the number of people they shuttle to their pharmacy.
As a foreigner, I go to the International Clinic (IC) at the hospital. I didn't the first few times, but it really does help. They take care of everything. The future appointments, prescriptions, etc. I get copies of all of my test results to send to my doctor at home. To get an official copy (stamped/signed) , you have to go to another part of the hospital (somewhere in the basement?) and you have to pay for it. The IC will print out copies of the results for free. They will show you to where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there. The waiting room in the little IC is much more comfortable than the other waiting rooms, and there is coffee and tea offered there. When I was in, that made a big difference because I had to go for a blood test around an hour and a half before my doctor appointment, meaning I had to sit around and wait.There are little 'hospitals' everywhere here; basically just doctors offices. They all have their own x-ray machines and such. They are a little less technologically advanced, though. Most of them are also very specific to what you need: if you have a problem with your eyes, you go to an eye doctor. If you have a problem with your back you go to the orthopedic doctor. There are some general family doctors, too. Koreans go to the doctor for everything, even a simple cold. They are very over-medicated here. If you have a cold, you will come away from the doctor with a prescription for up to 10 different pills. More often than not, they don't even tell you what it is they are prescribing for you. In Korea, no one seems to care. They just listen to what the doctor tells them to do. I think some of the pills are things like vitamins and such. But they do prescribe a lot of antibiotics for things. Oh, and if you go to the doctor with a cold, one of the first things they want to do is give you a shot in the 'hip'. I'm not sure what the shot is. My first year here I got that. Never again. If I go in and they want to give me that I just say no thanks. Unless they can tell me exactly what it is and why I need it.

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