Part of my work is what I call health or medical “consumerism” — recognizing, talking about, and creating guidelines for patients as they regard cost of their healthcare. From nuances in purchasing health insurance, to understanding how those dollars get allocated, to ideas for saving money and even appealing health insurance payment rejections — that’s what I call health or medical consumerism. I’ve defined it in a previous blog post.
So I was interested in this week’s article by Dr. Scott Haig, printed in TIME Magazine called My Patients are Not Customers. He describes his frustration with hospital administrators, labor unions, and the “incursion of business practices into our profession” where patients are defined as customers the concepts of customer satisfaction and patient well-being become confused.
His conclusion: “The answer is simple: we’ve lost sight of that boring and corny moral imperative to do what’s right for those in need, to love your patient as yourself. That approach has always driven good medicine. Not customer satisfaction.”
What’s refreshing to me is that Dr. Haig does not seem to have lost that idealism that probably sent him to medical school to begin with; the idea that as a doctor he would help people, make them better and save their lives.
What’s fascinating to me is that Dr. Haig seems to have missed that point that, as a doctor in private practice, his Job #1 is to be a business man. If he can’t be a good business man, then he won’t stay in practice. If he doesn’t understand the basics of business, such as making payroll or paying the rent, then he won’t be able to keep on doctoring.
What’s sad to me is that the world of health and medical care has changed in the past 20+ years, and while many of us long for the Marcus Welby-esque past, we’d like that paired with the advances medicine has made in the interim.
But my bottom line is that Dr. Haig had better wake up and smell the reality of today’s medicine. No matter how much we long for how things used to be, healthcare is not about health or care; it’s about sickness and money.
That’s what’s paying his mortgage — and frustrating us all.
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