Doctors need to stop being so complacent

Four brutally honest declarations:

1. I am perfectly capable of deciding what is best for myself, my family, my patients, my practice. I don’t need outside guidance telling me how to lead.

2.In order to practice the very best medicine, I decide what works best on my terms.

3. I will succeed and lead because I am focused on my goals just as much (if not more) than my patient’s goals.

4. My goal is to make money by offering tremendous value to my patients.

C’mon doctors, time to wake up! Yes you, the one who’s been seeing patient’s the same way our teachers an mentors saw patients in the same type of exam rooms, in the same types of hospitals.

Yes you! The one who seeks to write prescriptions first and make connections second. I know you’re busy, you have a lot to do. You have cases in the OR and patients to see and prescriptions to refill. You have to call Mr. Smith back today. And don’t forget to write that letter for Ms. Betty. It’s a challenge being in medicine, isn’t it?

But, come on, we can do better, you can do better. It’s time for some honest one on one talk. The kind that doesn’t come across the internet very much.

Why are we not leading ourselves where we want to go?

Medicine, and that includes you, is being lazy.  There, I said it.

No, not lazy, in terms of how hard you work, seeing patients and playing by the “rules,” but how you are innovating and adapting and acting for your future, for your patient’s future and most importantly for your family’s future. If we are to be completely honest, then I think we as physicians are failing ourselves, our patients and our families on many levels. Why?

The vast majority of doctors these days don’t know a thing about social media or how to connect with their patients with the tools of this digital age. Heck, only 33% or less of us, use electronic medical records! Come on!

I know, you may say, we have no other choice. The issues that plague the healthcare system are larger than any one of us and we need to be patient and let everything play out. Really, are you serious?

Why is it that for the vast majority of us, we are okay and fine practicing our trade in a system that is at best unpredictable and unreliable and at worst, one that does not reward our efforts?

Why do we allow ourselves to be dictated to over and over again and suck it up in the name of “being a physician”?

And why are we so scared to make change? Why is this so difficult?

If you were in any other sector of our economy, you would not just sit back on your heels and allow your day to day profession and livelihood be dictated to you. You would not stand it if over time you kept getting paid less and less while your responsibility increased more and more. There is no way you would allow yourself and your family to continually be put on the chopping block.

Am I over-exagerating? Maybe. But not really. C’mon, we all have the sense that medicine and healthcare are not what we dreamed of. No, it is not all about the money. But when we go through all of our training and determination and time and energy and yes, financial commitments that we all make, then, of course, it is reasonable to want to be the driver and not the passenger.

But right now we are okay with sitting in the way, way back as someone else steers us around. It is okay for our careers and dreams and aspirations to be dictated by someone other than ourselves and our families?

Why are we so complacent?

I think it is part fear mixed with guilt. We fear rocking the boat and taking control of our daily practices and we feel guilty for wanting to do so. But fear and guilt have never led to any positive changes. You know this.

We talk a lot about reform and change and wanting the best for medicine and our patients. But if we truly want to right our ship, then it is time for us to lead and not follow. To take two steps forward because we know where we want to go — and not look back.

Yes, we will make mistakes and yes, we will not always do the “right” thing, but ultimately if any of us wants a better medicine and a better healthcare system, then it has to start with each of us actively making that choice and living it.

If we are always trying to base our decisions on what is good for our patients or good for the system, then we are failing ourselves (and ultimately our patients and the system itself). The only way we can lead is to do what’s best for us. And that means what is best for ourselves and our families.

I’m guilty of being fearful, too. I am just like you. I think we have been lazy for far too long hoping that we can all band together and find a solution. Well, this just in, that’s not happening. At least it’s not happening fast enough.

High time we were finally honest with ourselves:

1. I am perfectly capable of deciding what is best for myself, my family, my patients, my practice. I don’t need outside guidance telling me how to lead.

2. In order to practice the very best medicine, I decide what works best on my terms.

3. I will succeed and lead because I am focused on my goals just as much (if not more) than my patient’s goal.

4. My goal is to make money by offering tremendous value to my patients.

Simple, yet for most of us, we have trouble believing these to be true.

Craig Koniver, author of Connected: The New Rules of Medicine, consults with physicians around the country at The New Rules of Medicine.

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