The growth of regional health provider networks continues to be a blessing for the well-being of Northern Kentucky. But better access to high-quality care in our region has not come without a price.

Before regional networks began gobbling up individual physician practices, each small community had doctors within walking distance. Care was as easy as putting on your shoes. And if you were too sick to walk your doctor came to see you. In the life of a community’s general practitioner mornings were for house calls and afternoons were for dealing with the folks sitting in the waiting room.

At the time, one of the most important people in the community was the busy-body who lived across the street from the doctor’s office who kept a close (and often judgmental) eye on who was going to see the doctor. I am certain that the stack of privacy forms a patient has to sign today has its origins in some nosey neighbor who was more than willing to burn up the town’s phone lines on a daily basis.

When we lived in Bromley the doctor’s office was just out of walking distance in the larger metropolis of Ludlow. We lived on the bus line so a trip to see Dr. Justice was an adventure. Still, when mom took me there for a visit, the people who lived around us always seemed to know about it before we could even pick up a prescription.

And the word of a home visit spread even quicker.

Everyone in town knew their doctor’s car. Having it parked in front of your home was a semaphore to the neighborhood to stay away.

“Did you see Doc Justice’s car was parked in front of Bucky and Pidge’s house this morning?” the nosey neighbor would ask. “I bet Ricky has chicken pox. It’s going around school, you know.”

Word would spread quicker than—well, chickenpox.

A warning that the neighbor had seen me playing at the park with their child the day before was enough to send the parent to the corner pharmacy to pick up a case of calamine lotion. I always suspected the neighbor and the pharmacy were in cahoots.

Then as doctors migrated to centrally located regional care centers, the busy-body lost their status as the community’s Town Crier of Wellness. They are still around, but probably employed by the Central Intelligence Agency to root out homegrown terrorists.