ROUND PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE

No, I haven’t lost it.  Today’s article is all about fitting a round peg into a square whole.  My profession is changing.  “Payers,” those entities that have taken on the responsibility for paying for and ultimately providing healthcare for my patients, want statistics.  They collect data on every visit, every medication ordered and filled, every test ordered and done (or not done).  If you are afraid of what Google and Apple are doing with your geographic data, you should be more afraid of “payers.”  The government, in the guise of Medicare, is the worst.

Protocols, for medical care, are being actively built and implemented on a daily basis. Information (data) is being harvested from every patient encounter.  That information is used to create evidence on what the least costly and, therefore, most effective treatment protocols are.  I am forced to follow these protocols every day.

A typical story goes like this; a patient needs a stat CT scan of her lungs to assure she did not have a pulmonary embolism.  Her insurer’s protocol requires a prior authorization for this potentially lifesaving test.  Failure to follow her insurer’s protocol would result in thousands of out-of-pocket dollars expense to my patient.  Delay in care could result in her life.  What to do? 

Protocols don’t take into effect an individual’s needs; they make an individual fit within the protocol’s needs.  Protocols are in the best interest of the “payer”, not the provider and his patient.  In “Normal,” published 2/28/11, I wrote that I had never met a “normal” or “average” patient.  I see individuals and they come in all sizes and shapes.  Protocols are devised to care for that fictitious, average, normal individual.

In “Are We There Yet?” (4/14/11) I wrote about a fictitious New York city in the year 2020.  There, everyone lived by protocol, from what they ate to when they died, protocol controlled everything.  Well, 2020 is just around the corner and we aren’t there yet, but I think we are certainly on our way.  Certainly, from a medical point of view, we are being pushed to sacrifice the personal aspects of care for the sake of cost control.

How do you fit a square peg in a round hole?  Try using a hammer, chisel or saw.  I’m afraid that the new world of medicine is going to be uncomfortable for most patients and downright painful for many.

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