Look to China for the future of American health care

Chinese hospitals are recruiting 1,500 “guardian angels” to protect doctors from violent patient attacks. Patients who are angry about the Chinese health care system, medical expenses, long waiting times, and uncaring doctors have become more violent over the years, with violent attacks occurring every two weeks on average — according to state media — which in reality means that it probably occurs a lot more frequently than twice a month.

Now China is starting a campaign to get volunteer students, medical staff and other patients to intervene when patients are upset with physicians. Apparently China views non-physicians as being more expendable when patients become upset and brandish cutlery. At least we have concealed carry laws in the US … for now.

Interesting that according to the article, China has created a culture in which “doctors are in crisis” and in which “medical practice in China is a high-risk job.” Now China is vowing to “root out corruption in the health care system” — to save all the patients from the evil and corrupt medical providers.

In reality, China’s policies have created many of the problems it seeks to “root out”, but state-run media likely won’t put that in print, either.

After reading through the article, think about what it happening in the US right now.

Doctor rating sites and patient satisfaction take precedence over proper medical care.

Patients are forced to purchase government-mandated “insurance” that in many cases doesn’t pay for the cost of care and that many doctors will therefore not accept as payment. Losing money every time that you provide medical care to patients — while paying off student loans, paying office overhead and salaries, paying malpractice insurance premiums, and paying licensure fees — is just not a sustainable business plan. As a result, patients pay a lot of money for government insurance but they often have difficulty finding medical care when they need it.

Federal agencies, in order to improve “transparency,” publish a list of how much money the federal government is paying physicians so that it can make physicians look like overpaid whiners when they complain about their workload and the regulatory burdens of a medical practice.  But the same federal agencies refuse to publish statistics about patients who abuse the system (“privacy rights” apparently outweigh the public’s right to know about illegal acts) and the same government hides data about maltreatment of patients in its own facilities. Transparency indeed.

Regulations related to the provision of medical care rise exponentially and educational costs to become a physician steadily increase while payments for medical services steadily decline.

The pervasive media message is what a lousy job physicians are doing. Increased malpractice. Unnecessary testing. Missed diagnoses. Malpractice verdict after malpractice verdict. Hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from hospital errors.
A well-respected profession is now becoming despised.

By systematically making the practice of medicine more difficult and less appealing, the United States is slowly creating a crisis similar to that which China is experiencing now. The more insidious problem is that it takes at least 10 years and sometimes up to 14 years to educate and train a new physician. Cause the best and brightest students to shy away from medicine while older physicians retire or die off and in 5-10 years there will be an even larger crisis that will be impossible to immediately solve.

At that point, it may no longer be an issue of which doctor you will choose to treat your medical problems, but instead a question of which doctor will choose to accept you as a patient.

Then who will the government and President Obama blame?

And will the proposed cure be worse than the disease?

Look to China.

Then look to Venezuela.

Boy am I glad I’m a doctor.

WhiteCoat is an emergency physician who blogs at WhiteCoat’s Call Room at Emergency Physicians Monthly and Dr. Whitecoat.

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