What’s the one thing doctors can learn from corporations?

In the last few years as documentation demands from insurers have skyrocketed, the buck has been passed straight into the lap of physician’s offices where insurers have saved billions of dollars even as they’ve slashed physician reimbursements by even more.

Is it any wonder our offices are chaotic, patients complain about long waits, insurance issues, referrals, pre-authorizations, and copays? Do we have to do it all? Why? Simply because we were told to over the years until it’s become way beyond just unbearable.

God forbid a “client,” as patients are now referred to, vents a claim against a doctor or his or her office as insurers jettison out a letter immediately, demanding a response and instant satisfaction.

How about the other way around? Can physicians call and file a complaint about abusive patients to their insurers? In your dreams maybe. It’s all about money, and the “clients” have all the rights as physicians take all the abuse.

But who do patients vent their anger, disenchantment, and resentments toward? That’s right, and it’s not those who are responsible for it — it’s the doctors and “their terrible staff.”

It’s a mostly no-win situation for physicians as people continue to wonder why physicians “burnout” and are miserable.

Thanks to an out-of-control insurance and government regulatory monstrosity forced upon us; patients are experiencing longer wait times, staff members overwhelmed and overworked, rising tensions on both sides, less time with physicians — all in the name of “improved quality health care?”

Why don’t you sell me an acre of swampland in the Sahara?

This upside-down, bad-to-worse, day-to-day never-ending health care fiasco continues.

The insurers and pharmaceuticals keep raking it in at the expense of doctors and patients left holding some change in wooden pennies at the bottom of the totem pole.

Physicians need to refer complaints directly to insurers and pharmacies and educate their patients to complain directly to them as well. The AMA should educate the public and protect their physicians from harassment that they and their staff are exposed to on a daily basis. Any wonder why physician burnout is so rampant? We’ve been demoted to “providers” who take the heat for the “malpractice” of insurers, pharmacies, and their agents.

I posit that now more than ever “physician shopping” is at its highest levels.

The only problem is how patients too have become impatient and react emotionally failing to realize they are shortchanging but themselves. They forget that it’s not for convenience that they see a physician instead of proper/best treatment of their maladies and the sorely sought peace of mind and reassurance they seek. Unfortunately the alternate “providers” they find results in inferior care as long as the wait times are palatable, the TV ads more luring and their logos strike a familiar chord.

Insurers couldn’t give a rat’s torso as they refer the
“unhappy” patient to another of their “providers” so they can continue to collect their premiums.

This is more than just corporate America, but instead, it’s a corporeal punishment and disaster waiting to happen.

When it comes to health, physicians are held to the highest standards and face the harshest penalties. Corporate American health care gets away with just the opposite and does so without fear of any repercussions.

That is why I believe that corporate American health care must be legislated so they cannot have it both ways as they do now. Put up or shut up when it comes to the medical care of humans.

If you are not a licensed physician, you should not be able to hire a physician to parrot your rules and regulations to other physicians. You should not be involved in the decision-making process that licensed physicians are tasked with daily. You accept no liability and dictate all the terms; we need a halt and cease of these practices to be replaced by a much higher standard of honesty, transparency, commitment and accountability if you are to have any involvement in “health care.” You cannot just rake in obscene profits and hold the physicians accountable for anything you can dump on their laps.

The buck has to stop somewhere. I suggest that since these entities have made physicians stretch the buck as far as they can already, it’s high time we unload it back on them.

Physicians should refuse to do paperwork, waste their time on ridiculous insurance mandates and patients as well as physicians might soon begin to thrive once again. Next, we renegotiate with all insurers en-masse through our professional societies (I can dream can’t I?) to reflect their profits and growths with our own. This is more than reasonable as without us there would be no “partnership,” and they’d be out of business.

We needn’t accept an existence of being dumbed down, downtrodden, disenchanted and disempowered. Instead, we must blossom as the talented, bright, caring professionals who bring the greatest value and who will take back the reigns of our profession from kidnappers who leach off it.

It will take hard work in educating our patients, placing higher demands of ourselves and our professional societies — but it’s difficult but very doable.

Our profession is not on death row, and hope is but a notion of finding the courage and strength within ourselves to act now.

Just like drug reps start by visiting medical students even before they are in practice, we need to educate our future physicians as to the potential they would claim instead of risk giving away.

We need to learn from the pharmaceutical companies the most important lesson of them all: promotion. It’s high time we started promoting ourselves and not our masters, from transforming the sheeple MDs we are to the lionhearted healers within us all. For at the end of the day, we will discard our burnt-out lives of misery and reclaim the joy of our calling. Also, we’ll avail ourselves to those who seek us out for our highest capacity to heal. Don’t fool yourselves as this will never occur until we have learned to throw off our limiting shackles to heal ourselves and our noble profession.

Then and only then can our staff be more accommodating, efficient, caring and become a more accurate reflection of who we — the physicians you will see after they pass the reception area — truly are.

Michael Weiss is a cardiologist and can be reached on Twitter @HeartAndSoulDoc.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

View 2 Comments >

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers 
✓ Get KevinMD's 5 most popular stories
Subscribe. It's free.