Are Physicians Becoming Irrelevant?
I wonder if most physicians are ready to hear this…
Irrelevance in any aspect of life in which one may place great value is frightening. It means that one is inconsequential, unimportant, and perhaps even powerless to affect change. It is a demeaning and frustrating position from which to voice opinions, present solutions to larger problems, and achieve success both personally and professionally. Yet, here we are… physicians.
Decades ago, physicians began to give in to the enticing promises of guaranteed patients and payments offered by health insurance companies. In doing so, we began the slower, insidious process of yielding control of the relationships with our patients to these same agencies. Consequently, today, we see that most patients define their healthcare through the complicated filter of changing benefits—formularies, physician panels, copays, and deductibles—of their health insurance companies rather than through the plain filter of a constant, reliable relationship with their doctor. The economics of healthcare delivery are now more relevant in discussions about the problems facing healthcare in America and in the making of public policy to correct these problems than is the very core of healthcare delivery: The doctor-patient relationship.
Yet, when talking informally with my colleagues, we continue to banter back and forth the same old tired and worn arguments about reduced health insurance reimbursements, oppressive regulations and requirements, and increased demands on our time and on administrative tasks that are peripheral to the fundamental purpose and training of being a doctor. And we’ve been talking about these issues for years… same stories, same concerns, and same outcomes: Nothing changes. We’ve become a bunch of whiners and wimps whose complaints are relegated to meaningless bull sessions in the back alleys and basements of our healthcare industry. So, by our own craft, in the grand plan of healthcare change in America, physicians have become irrelevant to the discussion of the future of our own industry, with no input, influence or impact on our profession and its massive shift. We neither captain nor navigate the ship; we simply sit in steerage, waiting with a sickening sense of fate for the ship to sink. The truth hurts. It is time for every physician to declare—with more than just words—that s/he will either face and overcome or deny and capitulate to the pain and insult of irrelevance.
In my sunset years of medical practice, I will not remain irrelevant. I have taken action to restore the doctor-patient relationships in in my medical practice, and to regain relevance in the discussion of strengthening our healthcare industry throughout our nation. I hope many of my colleagues join me in whatever manner they see fit to do the same… we need each and every one of you in order to win back our relevance.
Michael J Lucherini MD MS
Dr. Lucherini specializes in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. He practices at Summit Medicine and Pediatrics in Mesa, AZ, and is a Pioneer in Direct Access Medicine. His opinions expressed herein are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of his staff, his patients, or his colleagues.
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