Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are You A Physician Or A Secretary?

I'm no economist.  In fact I have never taken any business or accounting classes in my life.  But it doesn't take a formal education to get this.  We are speeding down the wrong path.

The call at three in the morning woke me from a deep sleep.  I fumbled and strained to hear the whispered voice of the apologetic nurse.  Apparently Mrs. Thompson had scraped her arm against the wheel chair, and suffered a minor abrasion.  No harm, no foul.  Except that ever since the state had come in  and eviscerated the nursing home protocols, extra precautions were being taken.  Some things just won't be left till the morning anymore.

My early trip to the hospital was no better.  My personal assistant called to say that I had to re do the form to get one of my patients a walker.  Although I had signed it by hand, we had typed in the date.  Apparently the medical equipment company required that the date also be written in ink.  It sounds minor, but I had to find a fax machine, wait for the fax to arrive, write in the date, and fax back.  All, of course, needed to be done immediately.

Luckily my hospitalized patient was getting better.  And since it was neither an admission nor discharge day, I just might escape without wasting too much time on paperwork.  As I was putting on my coat, the head nurse stopped me in my tracks.

"I just need to notify you that your patient claims she is missing fifty dollars, and can you sign this form acknowledging that you have been informed."

What?  Since when did I become a policeman?  Since when did take charge of all criminal activities that take place inside the hospital walls?  

Healthcare is being overrun.  Government induced regulation and documentation are creating mental gridlock.  The dictates of our forms and procedures are tying up those with the physical and intellectual know how to care for patients.

Why can't you get an appointment with your doctor?  Why are diagnoses being missed?  Why is the quality of healthcare in the United States declining rapidly?  Stop querying big data and start looking at the hunched backs and sore shoulders of the people who are inputting that data.

We are turning our physicians and nurses into scribes, field workers, and secretaries.  Those who create the most value, who took the most time and money to train, are being overloaded with menial and level inappropriate tasks.

No small business would be naive enough to operate this way.

Why then, should one of the largest sectors of our economy.

2 comments:

Chris Porter MD said...

Good point.

I've been thinking about this as well. There is no 'workflow advocate' to speak on behalf of all the hassled providers - even in the big organizations I've worked for. Without such push-back, we may be doomed. The thousands of daily annoyances of thousands of providers doesn't add up to a coherent agent of change, it just creates unhappy employees.

Jim Dahle said...

These are some serious issues as we're all now spending more time typing than doctoring any more.

I wanted to get in touch with you about another matter but couldn't find any contact info on the blog. Would you mind emailing me at editor (at) whitecoatinvestor (dot) com?

Jim