Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It makes me sick, I see a lot of that

Distractible MD says it so eloquently and simply: Just ask your doctor what he is “sick of”.

Doctors in training are flooding away from general Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Family Medicine in droves. Only 2% of medical students plan to go into primary care. It used to be over 50%. A recent Jim Lehrer report discussed the reasons. We’ve been talking about it for years but things have only gotten worse, not better.

The whole premise of health care reform ensures that everyone has access to good quality care. Every nation that provides good, quality access has a strong primary care base that is the foundation. Primary care is valued by the government, the payers, the population and even by the physicians.
We have it all backward. It is time to revamp the system from the bottom up. Frankly I don’t care if we get one more multimillion dollar robot to assist in a rare surgical procedure or one more new “next generation” imaging scanner until we can rationalize how we pay for care.
We have not yet begun the hard work to bring costs under control because there are too many pigs at the trough. One of my favorite teachers said “you can’t clear the swamp until you get the pigs out of the way”.
We have a lot of pigs to move aside so more people can get to the water.

I saw a patient today and looked back at a previous note, which said the following: “stressed out due to insurance.” It didn’t surprise me, and I didn’t find it funny; I see a lot of this.

My very next patient started was a gentleman who has fairly good insurance who I had not seen for a long time. He was not taking his medications as directed, and when asked why he had not come in recently he replied, “I can’t afford to see you, doc. You’re expensive.”

Finally, I saw a patient who told me about a prescription she had filled at one pharmacy for $6. She went to another pharmacy (for reasons of convenience) to get the medication filled, and the charge was $108. I could see the frustration and anger in her eyes. ”How do I know I am not getting the shaft on other medications?” she lamented. I told her that I see a lot of this.

What is the toll that simply having an insane system that demands huge sums of cash, yet does not give back a product worthy of that cost? What is the toll of people suspicious that they are being gouged at the pharmacy, hospital, or doctor’s office? What is the cost of having a healthcare workforce that goes home more consumed by frustration about the system than by the fact that people are sick and suffering?
Our system is very sick, and the fact that it is so sick makes me sick. It makes a lot of us sick.
I see a lot of that.
Post a Comment