To Physicians

It's time to insist that patient care is the highest priority


Time to spend with patients is getting shorter. Many of us feel like assembly line workers, just barely able to do the essentials before moving on to the next patient.

It is getting harder to individualize care; we have less time to really listen to the patient. We are not simply matching up the disease to its treatment; we are dealing with real people. But the humanity is being squeezed out of the patient-physician relationship.

When we don’t have enough time, patients don’t get what they really need. And eventually, we start to burn out.

We are faced with ever-increasing mandates and regulations, none of which help us do our jobs. We are required to spend time doing busywork, such as data entry, instead of patient care. Real people don’t fit into those little check boxes on the electronic medical record. The computerized patient chart is more for billing and surveillance than for patient care.

A simple request for prior authorization turns into an ordeal that could be a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Reimbursement is now tied to patient satisfaction, just as our time with patients is being cut to the bone, and beyond.

It seems that nobody is going to solve this problem. As far as I can tell, nobody is even trying. So we will have to do it ourselves. It is up to us, doctors and patients. Some things we can do individually; others require us to work together.

Here’s what you can do. First, do NOT accept blame for what is not your fault. If your institution insists that you keep doing more with less, saying you need to be more “resilient,” watch out. Understand that you are not the problem.

The AMA says they plan to reform prior authorization. Let’s make sure they do so.

What would happen if an institution’s medical staff got together and insisted that they have adequate time to do patient care?

Have you considered Direct Primary Care (medical retainer)? According to Dr. Ryan Neuhofel, “The DPC physicians I’ve met nearly always possess a passion that has sadly been beaten out of most of my physician colleagues.”

I believe it is time for doctors to take back our story. We can’t return to exactly the way we practiced before; too much has changed. But we can insist that we have enough time to spend with patients.

We went into this profession for a reason. That need is still there. Let’s make sure we have the time to do what we are trained to do.

Let’s Fix Health Care.

For more information about Direct Primary Care:

Karen Ritchie, M.D.