Remember when your doctor actually spent time with YOU?
Someone recently said to me during a conversation, “I remember when I was young and my doctor knew me personally and all the people in my family. He spent time with me and I always felt that he really cared about my well-being.”
These days, a visit to a physician often results in a fast Q&A, some rudimentary tests and then off for blood work if needed. There is no personal touch, no time spent talking about your health concerns in depth, as well as preventive measures discussed for long term good health. This isn’t the fault of your physician but the nature of medical care today. Doctors are on a schedule and are not given the luxury of time. On average a doctor spends less than 10 minutes with patients. This is usually due to a heavy patient load and the need to see as many as possible, coupled with an inordinate amount of paperwork and rules and regulations related to insurance.
The bright side to this, is that there is a change coming. It is slow to start but I feel it will gain momentum over time. That change is a physician who no longer accepts insurance but works on a direct pay model. What that means to the consumer is that the doctor works directly with you and for you and not an insurance company. Once you strip away the cost, high deductibles, co-payments and confusion associated with health insurance, you then have the care you deserve and a doctor who can focus on your needs both short and long term.
Currently in Maine there are only a few primary care docs that have entered this brave new (old?) world, but they are being watched closely by others in their profession and the hope is that they succeed. These physicians who left behind the traditional practice for this model decided that they no longer wanted to have their love of practicing medicine be diminished by the complicated web of dealing with insurance companies. This was a bold move as you can imagine and many of their patients left for the perceived safety of “traditional care”, but the trade-off for these doctors was that they could now practice medicine the way they wanted to. They charge a set monthly fee that covers a myriad of services that is often considerably less than a patient was paying before. It also gives patients access to them in a way that was never possible under the previous system.
This doesn't replace traditional insurance and the doctors embracing this “direct pay” model strongly recommends that people maintain some form of catastrophic coverage, but the general feeling is what they are doing will help detect and prevent more serious illnesses from developing due to the care that they are providing. All of this at a substantial savings to the health care system versus the patient.
So for those of you out there who long for the days when your doc could invest real time in your health needs and actually seemed interested in you, take comfort in knowing that there are physicians out there who are making this happen and many more watching to see how successful it is.