Physicians and patients must work together to improve health care

According to Wikipedia, a livestock guardian dog is a type of pastoral dog bred for the purpose of protecting livestock from predators. If only our doctors had these noble creatures to protect them from the predators of the world, to alert them when those interested in only the “bottom line” entered the halls of healing, our medical practices. Apparently, a “fox is guarding the hen house,” one who is not concerned with the welfare of our physicians or the state of health care but with usurping the last vestiges of authority that our physicians have in determining the pathway of care for their patients.

So why all this “farm talk”? Well, allow me to continue. When a flock of sheep is threatened by a predator, they use their natural instinct to band together for safety. A sheep that is separated from the flock is vulnerable to attack. All for one, one for all, that’s their slogan. In the case of our physicians, more often than not, doctors tend to be disjointed, not seemingly interested in presenting a united front. Your so-called “guardian dogs” have fallen asleep on their watch, allowing the progressive spiraling downward of the profession. It was once a revered profession to aspire to, that of healing the sick, and now too often, our doctors are trying to find a way out. My friends, this is not just any random profession — it is one that saves lives, encourages people to find healthier ways of living and to strive to live life to the optimum. It is indeed a calling, exacting much from those who have taken the oath.

Doctors cite several reasons why they can’t speak out, and maybe some reasons are justifiable. However, there should be only so much “lying down and rolling over” one should have to endure before an alarm is sounded. And at this point in time, I would think there is a very loud ringing in the ears!

The various medical associations whose original purpose was to consolidate and unify its membership have fallen flat on their faces. What we have now are disgruntled doctors mumbling in the back hallways about what’s wrong but seemingly have no idea what to do to remedy the situation. Those who have some ideas have very few platforms available to them to put forth those ideas. The talk is that the field of primary care is in a nose dive without a chance of surviving the crash.

Well, let’s all wake up before it is, indeed, too late. If the current professional organizations are not getting the job done, form new ones which will. Get your leading physician-speakers to present your case to the public media- newspapers, radio and tv talk and news shows, etc. so that the general public can be alerted to the state of health care in our country. It is necessary to describe how close we are to losing our family practice physicians due to either leaving the profession or more sadly and tragically, committing suicide. And those doctors still “holding down the fort” have full patient schedules, hours of finishing patient notes on lackluster EHRs, calling patients to discuss test results, and all the plethora of other clerical tasks that could be delegated to other staff members.

I, personally, have written editorials to my local newspaper on this topic. However, many patients are, for the most part, clueless as to what’s going on behind the scenes and beyond the exam rooms. Sure, we as patients complain when we have to wait months to set up an appointment with our doctors but do we actually realize it is due in many cases to the shrinking supply of doctors, especially in primary care?

As physicians and as patients, let us all work to promote an improved state of health care. The status quo is now unacceptable. May we have a system of delivering care where our doctors have a sense of satisfaction and contentment in the invaluable service they provide and where patients feel that they have the opportunity to have their health stories heard.

Michele Luckenbaugh is a patient. 

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