I listen to too much NPR. Interesting people stop me in my tracks. I listen to my local station, Sirius, On-line… I especially like the TED Radio Hour. TRH appeals to both my innate curiosity and my “short little attention span,” as Paul would say. I like some of the TED talks and TRH allows me to sort those without having to spend days watching YouTube. I find little satisfaction in short made-for-cable news stories these days and NPR, TED and others seem to do the trick.
Leana Wen seems to on to something in which I believe you might be interested.
Doctor Wen was enchanted with an idea a few years ago that also enchanted the good folks over at TED. With all the hubbub over being able to select your doctor, why not enhance the experience? In a nutshell, ole Doc Wen feels the patient would better served if the doctor they selected was something a little better than a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
A strange idea; before you get naked and discuss your sex life with someone, you might have some idea who that person might be. You know, what makes the person tick.
The ticking person in question is your doctor. Knowing if your doctor made twenty percent of her income from a particular drug company might have some bearing on your care, don’t you think? I have some experience with this last one. Once, I was changed from a blood pressure medicine which was working well without explanation. My friend who worked as a bookkeeper put the change in perfect focus later. She told me she hadn’t bought lunch in years. Turns out, the drug company which made my new drug bought extravagant lunches EVERY DAY for the whole office. I wonder to what largess my doctor was treated.
I wonder how my new drug compared to the old one in cost…nevermind, I have a pretty good idea.
Doctor Wen’s idea met with quick and universal condemnation from her peers. Her life was actually threatened. I will let you watch and weigh her assertions for yourself. Her assertions however, may speak volumes. In my experience, the louder the yell, the truer the arrow. The doctors and politicians who seem to hold the doctor-patient relationship in highest regard should welcome and celebrate her ideas. Sadly, many doctors seem to feel personally invaded as Doctor Wen tells the world the emperor has no clothes. Maybe they like a naked emperor and patients as long as they can hide behind their lab coats. I just wonder who else is in the coat with them.
(I’ll disclose that I work as a Radiologic Technologist, and I was previously a medical assistant. I’ve worked in a variety of hospitals and clinics in California and Washington.)
Allow me to answer your hypothetical about a practice that gets lunches from drug companies. Chances are no matter how extravagant the lunches are, most staff won’t get to eat them. Clinics and departments routinely suspend meal breaks in favor of patient emergencies, and every patient believes their complaint is an emergency. I can’t say I’ve ever met a physician who took money directly for preferring one drug over another. I believe that’s a direct violation of their licensing regulations. Patients also send cards, notes, sometime flowers and goodies, but we treat the grumpy, ungrateful ones just as well as the ones who are nice to us. So no, I don’t think the “perks” influence care at all. Everyone competent at any level concentrates on the task at hand to the exclusion of external influences.
There are different kinds of doctors. Not every specialty requires an equal level of “bedside manner”. The things Dr. Wen speaks about are important IF a provider has time to perform them. But we get days where you have 200 patients to get through in eight hours, with a staff of 3-5. If you spend extra time listening to patient concerns, it will impact the next patient’s treatment. Most patients have no medical education. Being able to read the internet is not equal to earning a degree and licenses. A patient’s worries are important, and their right to refuse any treatment must always be respected, but in my experience 90% of patient concerns are based on fear and/or bad info. The best strategy is to honestly express our intention to help a patient any way we can QUICKLY, and move on to treatment. To answer their informational questions, we have tons of printed handouts, which are regularly updated.
Is it possible to listen to too much NPR? 😀