Saturday, May 18, 2013

Socialized Medicine (by John)

Just this week I had a physical performed at a Japanese health clinic. They drew my blood, gave me an EKG, did a chest X-Ray, and checked my vision - all at zero cost to me. 

Every year in Japan employers pay for a yearly physical for any of their employees that elect to do so. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to subject myself to such a battery of tests, but since it was free and a friend of mine had been diagnosed with cancer during a similar test I thought it was the prudent thing to do. 

My physical was scheduled for last Wednesday at 2pm. I decided to show up a little early, but it turned out that the office was closed for lunch until 2:00. When I returned at 2:01, however, the office was open and there were already three people waiting for their appointments. 

As a precursor to this physical I was required to collect and bring with me my own urine sample. I was provided with a test tube and a small cup for home use. The instruction instructed me to fold the cup using a certain origami fold (really) to facilitate the transfer of the liquid from the cup to the test tube. 

I had requested that the tests and consultation take place in English, but it turned out that was not going to happen so I stood in line at the receptionist desk going through the possible phrases that I could use to communicate that I was here for my yearly physical and not for any specific ailment. 

Before I had made it to the front of the line a nurse approached me and asked if I was a lawyer. I said yes and handed her my packet of information and was instructed to wait in a chair. 

I was then directed to a small room where I changed into a pastel colored shirt that I suppose was meant to make it easy for the nurse to take my blood/measurements/heart beat etc. 

What followed was the list of tests that I listed above with the addition of a blood pressure measurement and a measurement of my height, weight, and waist size. It seems the waist size measurement is specifically engineered to discourage obesity. In the questionnaire that I filled out prior to my physical I was also asked if I had gained more than 20 pounds (1.6 stone) since age 20 - I've only gained 18 - and whether I had gained 7 pounds in the last year. 

There were very few honest to God walls in this clinic. Most of the testing areas were separated by curtains which were whisked open and closed as I was directed from one testing machine to the next. 

After the nurse had completed all my tests I met with the doctor for approximately 5 minutes. In these five minutes the doctor reviewed my test results (the X-Ray was already displayed on her computer screen) and I was asked if anything was troubling me. I said no and then she told me I was finished.  In a few days I should receive a full written report on the results from my tests.

From start to finish the procedure took 40 minutes including the initial wait. 

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