Notes from a Small Country

If your doctor’s last name is Google, It’s time to get a second opinion

“Wake Up Mr Purvis, Wake up”

It was the second week of February and I’d fallen asleep in my doctor’s waiting room.

I don’t remember being quite as ill before that moment. For most of January and February, I’d been in and out of fever with a horrible cough, culminating in me calling the doctor.

It wasn’t long after the first Coronavirus reports coming from China. Yet there was no reason to suspect I had the virus due to no obvious connection at the time (and no reported cases in Denmark), so the doctor was happy to see me.

I was glad, I was beginning to worry it was more than flu.

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll probably never get it

I’d heard plenty of disappointing stories about the Danish health care system.

Denmark has social healthcare very similar to the UK.

Read online and you’ll quickly find disappointing Danish experiences between patient and doctor.

A Danish friend once recommended a doctors appointment is most effective if approached assertively, with almost zero expectation on the doctor driving the conversation and consultation.

So that was my plan.

On my arrival, I was asked to swipe my ID card. It logged me in and the receptionist took me straight to a private room to perform some blood tests.

“Given our conversation on the phone, we’ll test for infections right away,” she said.

After that, I was shown the waiting room. A small room next to the reception. It was a bright area consisting of 6 chairs, a table of wooden toys and a magazine rack. I was the only one there.

Not very big I thought, how could a doctors waiting room only have 6 chairs?

I then fell asleep.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all

Where I live in Denmark, there are many small doctor surgeries rather than one or two larger ones.

This not only seems more efficient, but it also seems to enable a closer relationship between doctor and patient.

I spent 30 minutes with the doctor that morning. I had swabs of my mouth, more blood taken, a full question and answer session, chest examination, nasal and ear examination and advice on how to properly rest and let go of work stress.

It was a very different experience compared to seeing my doctor back in the UK.

I’d taken my Danish friends advice. I’d been respectfully assertive and very clear on my expectations (I’d been in and out of fever, unable to work for 2 weeks and felt extremely ill.) The doctor even had to wake me up in the waiting room, there was certainly no mistaking I needed help.

You think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things

When I think about my experience, it reminds me of flow efficiency*, which is usually at odds with resource efficiency.

It’s something that’s evident in many doctor surgeries across the world.

And it’s not restricted to patient/doctor situations, you’ll have experienced poor flow efficiency in all areas of life.

From your place of work, the roadworks or train ‘improvements’ you encounter, to the postal service or online grocery shopping service you use.

We all need more flow efficiency.

I believe our circumstances can change based on what words we read, hear, and speak

It begins with a mindset, one the Danes have embedded into their culture, consciously or unconsciously (I’m not sure which).

If we take a look at the UK’s National Health Service, where the patient flow is invariably optimised for the people working there (the employees and private businesses that provide services), it’s very easy to see the difference.

In the UK, reception tend to deal only with administration, nurses do separate appointments for blood work, and doctors focus mainly on consultation and prescription writing.

To have the tests and advice I received at my Danish doctor’s would have resulted in me taking several hours off work over the course of separate visits.

There’s also little room for assertiveness, as doctors in the UK rarely respond positively to a collaborative patient/doctor discussion (don’t mention Google!)

To ask, ‘What’s best for me’ is finite thinking. To ask, ‘What’s best for us’ is infinite thinking.

Have you thought about flow efficiency in your life?

Red tape or bureaucracy have resulted in decades of efficiencies optimised for governments, shareholders or business owners. Incredibly, not those a service or business exists for in the first place (e.g. the customer).

In Denmark, it’s refreshingly different. It’s not perfect and I know I may have been lucky with my doctor’s experience compared to others.

Yet it reminds me of what it was like as a kid in the 1980’s. When many services and businesses still existed for the customer.

They had an infinite** mindset instead of a finite one.

Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes

Common sense is missing in our lives more than ever.

And thinking ‘us’ instead of ‘me’ is common sense.

Denmark appears to have a deeper infinite mindset among its people than most countries I’ve been to.

You may be turned on or turned off by its socialism? Yet Socialism in the rest of the world tends to focus on disliking the rich.

In Denmark, Socialism is more about true respect for all, lifting everyone together.

It’s still a capitalist country, just one with true regard for everyone (not just the rich).

To heal illness, begin by restoring balance

So what was my illness?

The tests came back positive for aggressive seasonal flu. One that would not have been long-lasting had I taken the flu shot (lesson learned).

It also hit me hard as I’d lost balance in my life. Since the summer I’d begun to work non stop from the moment I got on the train in the morning, to when I stepped onto the platform in the evening.

Trying to be hyper-productive had ironically led to higher stress and a weakened immune response to seasonal viruses.

So now I’m back to meditating on my commute using the Headspace app on my phone. I write less content for LinkedIn as spend that time reading, and I organise my work more effectively by being in tune with how I feel, rather than ignoring it.

My flow efficiency is much greater than it’s ever been.

Here’s wishing you yours too.


*Flow Efficiency is a term used in the book This is Lean by Niklas Modig

**Finite and Infinite games are the basis of the book The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!