Healthspan Blog

Long healthspans mean happy lives

Sympathy for doctors please

18th June 2008

This article from the New York Times talks about how unhappy doctors are. They are overworked because they spend too much time dealing with insurance companies and patients who think they know something. Here’s a story that comes from a friend of mine (not from the article):

A patient comes in with 2 days of congestion and basically a viral common cold. I examine them and give advice on how to treat the symptoms. Patient then demands a “z-pack”. I then spend the next 10 minutes explaining and basically arguing with the patient that they don’t need a z-pack and that giving it is not indicated for a virus. Now I’ve spent 15 minutes for what should have been a quick 5 minute appt. Waiting room is backed up and everyone’s pissed including the patient I just saw.

2 days later, I get a letter from one of the local urgent care centers saying they treated this patient for a “sinus infection” with a z-pack. Now, the patient’s insurance has not only paid for my visit, but they’ve paid for the urgent care visit which is usually at a 25% higher rate because it’s “urgent”. Oh, and the patient got an antibiotic they don’t need and further helps spread antibiotic resistance in the community. It’s a friggin joke sometimes.

This story helps show some of the problems. Insurance companies are paying for unnecessary stuff (but not paying for stuff they should cover).The other problem is the time doctors spend dealing with insurance companies who, of course, have clerks arguing with doctors about medical decisions. There’s a good example of that in the article.

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