They’re tired, frustrated, and verging dangerously close to hopeless. They’re also bright, dedicated, and desperately needed.
Who are they? Physicians. In particular primary care physicians, although their more specialized brethren aren’t lagging far behind.
It’s no longer news that many doctors want to leave the practice of medicine. The ever-increasing complexity and volume of mandatory regulations, requirements, and expectations takes an enormous toll on body, mind, and spirit. Healthcare reform is a much-discussed initiative, but will it bring relief to this sorely-distressed core group?
Not long ago I read an article admonishing physicians that if they would just spend a little more time with each of their patients they would no doubt see a corresponding improvement in the all-important patient satisfaction score cards. Seemed like a good plan - improving patient satisfaction is a worthwhile goal. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that the article never mentioned the enormous pressure this same group faces from administrators eager to increase volumes and reimbursement. It’s got to be hard to make all those things happen at once, and as is so often the case in the world of metric-driven healthcare, no one is willing to establish a priority. In order to be considered a team player every goal must be fervently sought and simultaneously attained. No wonder doctors are tired.
There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.
Dr. Scott Haig thinks so too, and addresses the issue in Time’s Health & Science section; How to Fix Healthcare: Four Weeds to Remove.Here are the “weeds” Dr. Haig would go after first:
Healthcare Regulation, including Credentialing “Of course we need to know that doctors are healthy and competent. But the system is redundant and takes up way too much of our time… A unified federal credentialing agency could pull those weeds right out and leave the country with 5% to 10% more doctoring at almost no cost.” (Many credentialers are surprised this process hasn’t yet been nationally centralized.)
Malpractice “There is little or no correlation between doing bad stuff and getting sued.”
Medical Billing “The ultra-complex set of rules and regulations is a health-care expense that produces no health care.”
Computerization “Aside from their costs to us, electronic records are time-consuming — a constant distraction from patient care.” (I don’t entirely agree with Dr. Haig’s negativity about electronic medical records, and I’ve worked with both paper and computerized EMRs, but there is no denying that performing data entry while talking with a patient is distracting.)
In these difficult economic times it’s worthwhile to look seriously at the cost of healthcare regulation and policy; not all of it provides an acceptable return on investment.