Not to date myself, but in the world of 21st century healthcare, Marcus Welby has left the building. Our healthcare experience has changed over the years, primarily for the better, but it is still changing in ways that many find hard to accept. Doctors are now providers, and patients have become consumers; medicine is no longer a service built on personal relationships with the likes of Drs. Welby, Kildare, and Huxtable. Rather, it has become a big business run by the Blues and other Fortune 500 insurance companies.
U.S. Healthcare Spending
U.S. healthcare spending in 2010 was 16% of our GDP. As a result, medicine today is, unfortunately, run like a business. It has to be. Thanks to years of technological breakthroughs, our medical costs have skyrocketed – as has our life expectancy and quality of life. Seems like a fair trade off, but the downside is insurance companies now control too much of our healthcare decisions. Too often it’s the insurance carrier dictating what is “allowed” and “not allowed,” with costs being the paramount consideration, leaving the doctor and patient wondering, “What just happened?”
Healthcare is a Business
The role of the physician has changed also. The doctors’ – or providers’ – diagnoses used to be made solely on his clinical judgment or “gut.” Those decisions, with the help of big insurance, have been replaced by technology-driven, evidence-based practices. Again, not altogether an entirely bad idea, but the practice leaves the patient feeling more like a number that an individual. Doctors now come off as uncaring, seeing you for only a moment before running off to treat the next patient. Where there used to be family doctors who took a stake in their patients’ lives, there are now doctors who know how to conduct tests. They seem to care more about the patients’ charts than the patients themselves.
Our role has changed, too. The consumer, participant, or what I prefer to call, “patient,” has evolved into an active participant. We need to act like consumers when it comes to our healthcare. We need to keep tabs on our doctors, and our carriers as well.
Often the physician’s hands are tied as to what treatments they can offer, as directed by the insurer. It’s up to the patient to ask the questions and get to their own “bottom line” of their healthcare. The insurance companies are more than happy to tell you where to go, who to see, and what tests to get, and some providers may continue to use just that “gut” versus technology-driven, evidenced-based medicine. . . if you let them.
Remember – healthcare is a business. You have to ask the questions and be your own advocate. Dr. Welby has definitely left the building.