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Jul 31 2014

The Cost of a Doctor Visit – Where is the Value?

Man Holding Money in Doctor Outfit with Smirk ExpressionThis post at Kevin MD made the rounds again last week. Written by Mary Pat Whaley, and entitled , “Your 10 minute office visit needs 8 people and 45 minutes of work” it describes all the background work that takes place before, during and after a doctor visit so that patients won’t be so surprised that their visit costs so much money.

It’s an important perspective for patients to understand, certainly.  While most of us realize that there is much more that takes place behind the scenes than we are aware of, we really have no idea what it takes to support just one 10 or 15 minute appointment. This is a good overview, even if three years after it was first published, most of us experience it differently due to the shift to electronic records.

That said…  to Mary Pat and others who want to defend that $100 charge – we patients still don’t get it, no matter what explanation has been provided.

We’ll ask you instead to look at it from our perspectives:  We have just spent an hour in your office waiting for our drive-by visit with the only person we really came to see. Then you tell us it cost $100 for that 10-15 minutes, which we translate to $400 an hour for his or her time. Further, from our perspectives, all he did was ask a few questions, embarrass those of us with modesty issues, and then leave. We rarely feel any smarter.  Some of us feel belittled and unworthy.  And then we are expected to pay for the insult.

Suppose you were treated the same way by any other service you needed yourselves…  What if your car mechanic treated you like that? Or your hairdresser? Or your accountant or lawyer?  You know you would walk away, no matter how they justified those charges to you.

So – let’s look at this another way:

What if providers began to realize that the key here isn’t the money or the cost?  The key is that patients do not perceive the value of all that bother, all that waiting, then drive-by doctoring.  In fact, we are feeling as if we are being charged more and more for less and less. In a time when we are expected to try to establish a relationship with you, developing a partnership, we feel instead as if we are being charged an arm and a leg and dismissed. There is no other profession in this world that operates successfully that way.  And you wonder why people are less and less trusting of their medical providers?

So – doctors and practices – I call on you to stop trying to justify what you charge your patients. Instead I call on you to help us see the value.  Help me understand why it’s worth it to me to spend $100 – whether or not it’s covered by my insurance.  If you’re going to charge me $100, then help me walk out of your office feeling as if my money was well spent.

THAT is the challenge.  Reducing your costs, or justifying them, will never move the bar.  But a discussion of value can raise the bar, and the appreciation, considerably. Less whining about the cost of a visit. More appreciation for the value of what we have received.

Doesn’t that sound a lot more useful to everyone?

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1 comment

  1. Pat

    I saw a retina specialist…more than one hour wait…90 seconds (yes seconds) with the MD and $150 charge…

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