Monday, February 25, 2008

Three conversations

On top the card read, "To Dr. LMD and Staff, for all the nice things you do for me." Underneath the foil wrap were two dozen fresh baked chocolate chip cookies still warm from the oven. As I truthfully exclaimed that these were my favorite, the patient related two stories of other doctors offices. Offices where the staff was in the patient's words, "more interested in my money than they were in me."

Later in the day I saw a patient who had lived in Brussels Belgium for the past six years. As she and I visited about her medical history for the years she had been away she remarked wishfully, "It certainly is different in Europe." I found out later that a member of my front office staff had badgered her for her husbands social security number. It seems that without it we could not file her insurance. Her primary care physician in Brussels was a single physician with his wife as the receptionist/office nurse. My patient had the up most respect for this physician and the care that she received as his patient. The cost of an office visit: forty Euros. A fee the doctor himself accepted after the completion of the office visit.

At the end of the day my office manager wanted to review with me a potential new hire for my office. The point sold my office manager on hiring this young woman was the fact that she had self appointed "goal" of collecting a certain amount of money from patients at check out in the course of each day.

Medicine it seems is a business more so than a generation ago. Many times I am disappointed in myself as well as my colleagues. We spend too much of our time thinking about monetary compensation rather than taking pride in the work we do or realizing how important that work is to the health of our patients.
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