As we all know, with the advent of the Affordable Care Act and rising health care costs, our country is at a crossroads where we need to make individual and collective decisions regarding the direction we are taking with regard to health care in America. If the current rate of growth in health care spending continues, in the not too distant future we will be spending all of our tax revenue on health care. We know this is not affordable, so the necessary response will be a significant increase in taxation, unless health care costs are contained. At any crossroads, there is the option to stay the course, but in this case I believe we all need to consider another direction. Over the past 30 years, physicians have been required to see an ever-increasing number of patients per day in order to keep up with rising overhead costs in the face of lagging reimbursements. What would seem to be intuitive to most people is apparently either not seen by our Department of Health and Human Services or is intentionally not acknowledged: that if physicians are forced to do much more in less time, quality will certainly suffer.
The American public in general has a belief that we should not pay anything personally for our health care. While this would certainly be wonderful, we all should know it is not possible. Countries that have socialized medicine are paying for health care through higher taxation or alternative distribution of funds (none have to support a defense budget anywhere near the one the U.S. has). Nevertheless, it is not free, and the people are paying for their care. In this country, we are facing rising insurance premiums with rising deductibles as well and are therefore paying larger and larger amounts personally in addition to the higher amounts of tax revenue being paid into health care. We have also become complacent and reactive in regard to our health, generally focusing more on treating existing illness rather than pursuing wellness.
One of the new paths being paved by private physicians is known as concierge medicine. While many have the conception that this is medicine only for the wealth and that the physicians practicing this type of medicine are doing this to make more money, this is the exception rather than the rule. The purpose of concierge medicine is to enable the physician to restore the doctor-patient relationship by reducing the physician panel to a much more manageable number of patients. This smaller panel size allows the physician to spend more time addressing the concerns of his patients, discussing the patient’s health habits, and focusing on wellness and prevention. The end result of this type of practice is the restoration of trust between patient and physician, which translates into better patient compliance and a better working relationship, more thorough knowledge and understanding on the part of the physician regarding patient’s physical as well as emotional make-up, and improved availability of the physician to the patient. All of these contribute to improved wellness as the physician and patient are able to work together to achieve wellness, and the physician understands the individual goals and difficulties the patient is experiencing in trying to achieve these goals. Not to be understated or undervalued is the peace-of-mind for the patient, knowing the physician is much more invested in him.
Please see my next article for how this practice can save health care dollars and improve the overall health of our nation.