Recently there was a news story about Dr. Russell Dohner, of Illinois. He charges all patients a flat fee of $5 per visit. He doesn’t take insurance.
This led to several online threads featuring comments such as “Finally! A doctor who cares!”
Apparently, this means that doctors like me, who charge more than practically nothing, are evil and don’t care.
I respect Dr. Dohner, and am not putting him down. I think highly of what he does. I actually like what I do, and if I were independently wealthy and could see patients for free, I probably would.
It isn’t until almost the end that the article notes Dr. Dohner is supported by his family’s farming business, and NOT his medical practice. By that time most readers have moved on to the football scores and “Dancing with the Stars” results, and therefore are left with the impression that any doctor can do this for $5 a head.
I do care.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own responsibilities: like office rent. And paying Annie and Mary. And a mortgage. A wife. 3 kids. If I can’t support those things, then I’m not going to be able to keep my office open to care for people.
Regardless of what people may think, just because I charge for my services doesn’t mean I don’t care.
I care enough to call in your seizure medication to a pharmacy at 2:00 a.m. because you’re out of pills, even though you knew you needed a refill for at least a week.
I care enough to call you from my family vacation to go over your MRI results, because I didn’t think they should wait until I got home, or that you should get bad news from a covering doctor who doesn’t know you.
I care enough to come in early and see you at 7:00 a.m. because you can’t get time off work, but really do need to be seen.
I care enough to spend time arguing with some pinhead at your insurance company about why you need an MRI, when they don’t think you do.
I care enough to rush in to the hospital to see you on my weekend off, rather than let a hospitalist who doesn’t know you from Adam try to figure this out.
I care enough to call a drug rep and beg for samples of your medication because you lost your job and can’t afford it.
I care enough not to order unnecessary EMG’s and EEG’s on you, even though doing them would improve my revenue.
I care enough to face worsening reimbursements and rising expenses every day, when many colleagues have given up and gone into another field.
I care enough to try and give you hope, even when I’m not sure there is any.
I care enough to help you find another neurologist who will take good care of you, because your crappy insurance won’t let you see me anymore.
I care enough to step out of my kid’s music recital and take your call, because I know you’re scared.
I care enough to take the time and explain why the drug you saw advertised on TV isn’t a good idea in your case, rather than just writing a script to shut you up.
I care enough to stay in a job that has deprived me a of decent night’s sleep, family time, and likely shortened my overall lifespan, in spite of the fact that my financial goal nowadays is just to break even.
I care enough to refer you to a neurological subspecialist who can take better care of you than I can, even though in doing so I’ll lose you as a patient.
I care enough to call your spouse at 9:00 p.m. to reassure them that you’ll be all right.
I care enough not to force you to have a test you can’t afford, even though you can sue me for malpractice if I miss something.
I care enough not to dismiss you from my practice, in spite of your insanely annoying personality, because I know that you really do need my help.
I care enough to still be doing this job, even though every day a little bit of my idealism dies.
I care enough to be a doctor. I hope I always will.
“Doctor Grumpy” is a neurologist who blogs at Doctor Grumpy in the House.
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