Tag Archives: money

Saving Primary Care? It’s Not All About Money.

I read many healthcare blogs and of course follow healthcare news.  It is bewildering and stupefying the (seemingly) thousands of different directions it’s all going.  Honestly, our politicians and leaders really seem to be clueless.  Driven by so many “fingers” in the pot and ultimately they continue to make one fatal flaw.

Politicians are to busy telling people what they WANT to hear and not what they NEED to hear.  Where are the real leaders?  Alas, that is a different blog entry.

One common (albeit thin) thread is the reoccurring theme that primary care needs to be more of a central focus in healthcare.  It seems so obvious and is supported by many as the way to improve not only cost and efficiency but also the quality of healthcare.  The healthcare system was meant to be a pyramid with the majority of physicians as primary doctors at the base and supported by a much fewer specialist at the top.  Our system however, has turned this upside down and the pyramid is rapidly growing at the top while the primary care base dwindles.  I dare anyone to argue that this is not a calamity in the making.  The pyramid standing on it’s point will collapse.  Yet, our politicians continue to ignore this issue or throw small bones at it in passing that are laughable.

So, what does it take to reverse this trend and fix Primary care?  In one word, time.

Many have articulated this in so many different ways, my blog today seems redundant, but I think the point is still missed.  Most want and feel that primary care needs to be payed better.  I wont argue with that and it would certainly be a quick and efficient way to solve the problem.  However, in this economic and political climate that doesn’t seem feasible or likely (thus the growth of Direct practices where physicians have taken matters into their own hands.)  In a nonscientific survey of my colleagues, I think most primary care docs are actually happy with their income (mostly), but they are not happy with what they have to do and the liability they assume for that income.

So, let me make this clear.  We don’t have to focus on money as the only panacea to fix Primary care.  There is a whole other side to this equation that needs to be dealt with. Let us “fix” the job.  Do away with countless unfunded mandates and meaningless bureaucracies and suddenly, hours of wasted physician time can be used for…. dare I say it, actual care!  Not to mention the enormous amount of wasted staff time and expense that will disappear and… dare I say it, the practice will make more money.

So many of these “little task” have been invented and created with the sole purpose of “slowing” down physicians and to artificially lower cost.  Since most fall squarely on primary care they have completely missed the boat.  Primary care is not  the source of massive spending problems in healthcare.  So why do they still exist?

In an attempt to be constructive, I offer these suggestions.

1. Outlaw prior approvals.  How convenient for the insurance company, “of course we would pay your benefits, but YOUR doctor hasn’t done the prior approval.”    I’m not sure how these are legal in the first place.  Insurance is a contract between patients and the insurance company.  How does the Insurance company get away with “forcing” physicians to waste time and energy to complete this process without paying them for that time?  If insurance really thinks that need a “checks and balance” on doctors, then I suggest implementing a “second opinion requirement” for certain high dollar healthcare expenses.  If the insurance doesn’t want to pay for an MRI, fine, then require 2 different physicians agreeing that an MRI is needed before they will pay.  At least then, the insurance company would have to pay for 2 evaluations to get the professional consensus that they think they need.  that extra expense would be nothing for slowing actual “waste” but it would prevent the insurance from abusing the process.  I once was told to get a prior approval for atenolol.  Really?? Atenolol is about as cheap as it comes…

Another great example: Medical Necessity « Musings of a Dinosaur.

 

2. Require companies to pay physicians for FMLA, disability, and long term care forms.  yes, I know that physicians can charge patients for these forms but why do we need to drive even more of a wedge between patient and doctor when it is the companies that are benefiting from the bureaucracy of the forms?  Most docs don’t charge for the forms yet we should be paid for our time.  Companies create their own forms and then demand physicians to fill them out, often 4-5 pages long and filled with nonsense.  Simply, more wasted time and an attempt to prevent people from being able to get their benefits.  How convenient for the insurance company, “of course we would pay your benefits, but YOUR doctor hasn’t properly filled out the forms.”

 

3. Pay primary care doctors for time, not for encounters.  Current system encourages volume of patients and not quality.  Patient comes in with chest pain that looks, smells, and sounds like reflux, the PCP gets the same amount of money to write “consult to GI” in 5mins that they get paid to spend 45mins educating the patient and explaining why a trial of PPI is worthwhile.  Amazingly, the 5 minute “consult to GI” visit also has a lot less liability for the physician.  This McMedicine approach is a major reason for the chaos we have in medicine now.

 

4. Offer real malpractice reform (at least for primary care if the politicians can’t stomach it for all healthcare.)  Reality is that Primary care already has lower liability than most in healthcare, but that doesn’t stop us from having ridiculously high premiums.  I personally don’t know a single primary care doctor that honestly feels they don’t practice defensive medicine.  This often includes many of those 5 minute “consult to so and so” visits that I mentioned above.  Without the constant threat of liability, Primary care doctors wouldn’t be so crabby about their relatively low pay and they certainly would be less likely to order unnecessary consults and test.

Ultimately, we have to give PCPs more time to do their job, or we have to pay them better.  My Guess is the right answer is somewhere in the middle.

If we want a return to a high quality primary care centric model of medicine in this country, then we have to improve primary care.  More money helps, but it is not the only answer.  Simply making the job better would go a long way to improve attractiveness of primary care for young doctors.

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Let’s Talk About Your “Rights”…

Nothing gets me more in a tizzy than to hear politician say, “it’s your right” or “you deserve. ”

We have so many problems and issues in our country.  Problems that are not new or somehow unique to our country or even our particular generation.  What is unique however is our social dialogue.  No time in the history of man have we been more connected and more free to speak our mind.  A freedom that I fear is wasted by most and is incessantly driven by a mindless and commercially driven media.  In a world that is FULL of EASILY AVAILABLE information, yet we are still horribly ignorant and still allow a few loud and verbose among us to tell us what to think.

Well, I would like a chance to move thought a little.

“Rights” is where I think we have to start.  Our society has spiraled into relative chaos due to this simple but contentious concept.  Rights, as described by our forefathers, started simply.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They knew that true Rights are rare, small but highly treasured things.  The basic belief that humans control their own destiny and must be allowed the opportunity to pursue that destiny.  Without outside interference whenever possible.  Those simple Rights are the cornerstone of our great nation and must be protected.  Problem is,  recently we decided to expand those “rights.”

Creating one after another (through social dialogue) rights that we “deserve” and are “owed” by society.  This was with the noblest of intentions but has led to a degenerate society.  One question epitomizes the issue, “What happens when your Rights, conflict with my Rights?”

The definition of Right should never allow this to happen because a Right should be self determined.  If a Right is infringing on another person, then it is no longer a Right, it’s a privilege.

I will offer this definition to simplify Rights: anything you can have or do that does not require another living soul to have or accomplish.

If it requires another person, for any reason, then it can not be considered a Right.  It has required that living soul to give (even the smallest amount) then it is a gift, therefore a privilege.

If you are honest with yourself, you will see that it is almost impossible to claim many of our so called Rights, as true Rights.  The late great George Carlin said it best, “There are no such things as Rights, just temporary privileges.”  He also said,” it’s only a Right until it is inconvenient for the government.”  So True.

So if I could have one dream.  One wish, it would be that we would change our national dialogue of “our Rights” and what we “deserve.”  Instead, could we please talk about what privileges we as a nation want?

Talk of Rights is full of selfishness.  As the most powerful, wealthy , and advanced country in the world…. What privileges would we want for each other?  We want good roads, police, and fire fighters (as someone who has traveled to the 3rd world, these are defiantly privileges) so we are willing to pay for it.  We want social welfare and medical care for our elderly, and so, we REALLY pay for it.  We have decided we want the biggest, baddest army in the world, and boy do we ever pay for it.  We even once wanted to be the first nation to the moon, we payed for it and then celebrated and shared in the privilege that showed our strength and determination to the world.

Accept it folks.  We have very few Rights.  Almost none.  But, we have more opportunity than almost anyone else in the entire world…. please let us not squander it.

We must look long and hard at ourselves and decide what privileges we want and what we are willing to pay for.  The pot of gold is not infinite but it is huge and if managed well, could give us (and does give us) privileges beyond our wildest dreams.

We must earn privileges. We must all contribute and work to make our country great so that we can enjoy even more privileges.  The Rights you think you deserve, just don’t exist.

The world and society owes us nothing but the opportunity to succeed, it is up to us to take this privilege and be thankful for it.