Wow…..that’s quite grandiose, eh? That we as a generation could CHANGE the healthcare system as we know it?
It isn’t, and we can. Here’s how.
I’ll start with the problem in the system that is within our control. A big chunk of what’s wrong with healthcare is not being discussed: that too many doctors have long since abandoned quality care for quantity billable hours. Here’s the result and how each one harms the system:
- When we feel that our doctor cares less about us than his/her bottom line, we are more apt to sue when things go wrong – we believe they do not have our best interest/care at the core of their work, as a result it is much easier to believe malpractice, malicious or otherwise;
Harms the healthcare system through higher levels of frivolous lawsuits
- When doctors are not taking the time to truly listen, learn about us, automatically get our records from our other doctors and collaborate with them on our care, the result is the need to order tests and lots of them – when you work in a vacuum, you need to gather information to fill that void, information that often can be gleaned from other sources rather than more tests;
Harms the system through needlessly perpetuating tests, not based on our tendency to sue, but their tendency to do too little discovery on their own, using their medical arts training
- Speaking of working in a vacuum, doctors today take a full-blown silo approach, attending to only their tiny specialty piece of our personal health-needs puzzle, as though their part of the body is completely disconnected from the other parts (not to mention the emotional/psychological aspects of our physical health) – it isn’t – all of the body’s parts work in concert, and specialists need to consider other systems/parts that impact their specialty’s – but too few do;
Harms the system by again creating the need to order batteries of tests; also lends to more misdiagnoses, the need to see more doctors until you find someone who might put the pieces together for you, and mistrust that fuels lawsuits
- Overbooking is the medical mantra – thus doctors expect us to wait for sometimes an hour, before being seen for a pre-scheduled appointment; beyond the facts that if we ran our businesses like that we wouldn’t have one and the practice is clearly disrespectful to us (treat our time as far less valuable than theirs), the most important problem here is that the person making decisions about our healthcare issues is in such a rush, there is simply no way s/he can do a quality job;
Harm to the system is increased misdiagnoses or no diagnoses (once the most obvious cause for your symptoms has been ruled out, the medical shoulders shrug and you’re left still not knowing what’s wrong with you…or you’re sent to yet another specialist) both of which increase our costs (more doctor visits/tests), and once again, increase the lawsuit tendency.
Now here’s what we can do to fix it because, as I mentioned above, this is within our control:
- Insist on better care – do not accept poor quality medical practice, as the more we accept it, the more of it we’ll get; let any doctor you see know upfront what you expect from him/her, and be prepared to seek other practitioners if you don’t get it – do not settle for mediocrity as though you have no choice
- Insist that your doctors talk to each other, that your records be shared, and that your doctor listen to all of your concerns and existing medical needs/issues, regardless of the body part you’re there to address – neither they nor you know what’s impacting what until you discuss it
- Do not wait more than 15 minutes to be seen – unless the doctor has an emergency or they’re fitting you in on an emergency basis – let the scheduling person know this intention when you make your appointment, and make checking on the doctor’s timeliness a part of your doctor-choosing decision; then follow through if they do make you wait longer than the time you’ve agreed to wait – let them know you’re leaving, and give them one more chance to do it right by making another appointment (if you wish); usually your return visit will be handled much better…
- Become a well informed consumer/partner in your care – go to your appointments prepared, understand as much about what’s happening to your body as you can rather than fully depending on the doctor whose only half-listening anyway, insist on explanations for their recommendations, benefits/down-sides, etc. rather than blindly accepting what they decide – I have provided my doctors with alternatives they’d not considered as a result of my due diligence
- Do not agree to tests with which you don’t feel comfortable or, after some research you believe to be unnecessary – you’d be quite surprised by how many tests you’ll find are more about CYA for the doctor vs. your well-being, once you’re more fully informed
We Boomers have no problem asking for what we want, we are the best educated generation so our research skills are excellent, and we are unwilling to accept the “status quo” (these are just 3 of our generational characteristics that come in handy, here) – much more so than any other generation, including our childrens’. We can use these abilities to change the expectations we have of the medical professionals in our lives, thus changing the way our own doctors work with us. By using only those doctors who meet all the above criteria, we are putting our dollars to work supporting best medical practice, not worst.
And with 78 million of us, that will have a huge impact. Over time, those with the best practice approaches will thrive, the rest will not.
The resulting reductions in lawsuits, unneeded tests, and additional doctor visits as one specialist no longer automatically sends you to another before doing all s/he can to diagnose your problem him/herself, will make a nice dent in our healthcare costs.