The annual physical is now a history lesson. One I shall never forget. Its simplicity should make it out of site, out of mind. It continues to swirl in my head like a bad dream.

Have you noticed the heavy push to get people to roll up their sleeve for a flu shot? The marketing campaigns resembles a Geico commercial, at the pharmacy, urgent care, or chatting with the candy-striper doing my patient intake form, they all ask me if I want a flu shot. My response is always the same non-reluctant NO! I’m no doctor, nurse nor medical expert. I am afforded the opportunity to interview and speak with all kinds of folk.

Patients receiving the flu vaccine tell me. I got the shot, never again. I got the worst case of the flu. I’ve never been this sick with the flu. Everybody I know gets knocked out with the flu after they get the vaccine.

Sure, there are success stories. Doctors tout the vaccine. Pharmacies give them out like candy. News reports remind us, continuously, that winter’s coming and so is flu season. Seems the CVS’s and chain stores offer flu shots all year long. What’s up with that?

Since the vaccines are concocted without first knowing the prevalent strain(s), I’ll pass on the needle, thanks. I feel healthier for it. Knock on wood. Give me the pertinent data dealing with the vaccine prior to your advertising blitz attempting to spoon feed me last year’s questionable anecdote.

Now, where oh where has the old fashioned physical exam gone? I love my doctor. He’s personable, intelligent and refers the correct specialists when appropriate. Doc won’t force feed me opiates for pain.

The remainder of the physical consisted of checking the wax in my ears and two deep breaths. Nobody bothered taking my temperature. No looking into my eyes. No stethoscope cupping my heart. No rubber hammer to the knee or elbow. Shoot. I have a double hernia. My medical man didn’t ask me to turn my head and cough. I like my doctor, not today's primary care physician.

Patients are run into a medical mill. We’re lucky to get 10 minutes with our doctor. If it’s a quickie appointment we’re handed to a Nurse Practioner or Physician’s Assistant. They aren’t bad. They are not your doctor. The limited time we have with the doctor rarely produces an appropriate answer. In fact, today’s certified and qualified Primary doctor, at these H-M-O style facilities, has become an over-priced, glorified triage of one.

It’s time to get back to direct care. If I go to see my doctor, I don’t mind spending 25-40 minutes to get my questions answered and for a proper diagnosis. And, a proper diagnosis can lead to less expensive and unneeded testing. What about real bang for my thousands of healthcare bucks, preferably with no co-pays. Heck, if I’m too ill to drive, is it too much to ask my doctor to make a damn house call?

There are very few of these personal direct care physicians. However, there ranks are swelling as more doctors feel squeezed by the medical bureaucracy and by a burning desire from patients craving for the benefits of personalized care.

Editor’s Note:   Brian Thomas is the host of Brian’s Beat on 1420 WBSM New Bedford.  He can be heard weekdays from 10am-Noon and Saturdays from 6am-9am.  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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