Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Physicians Just Want Time With Their Patients

Tired of the long wait in your doctor’s office? You’re not alone — your doctor doesn’t like it either.  Unfortunately, physicians today are buried in a morass of bureaucratic and insurance company red tape detracting their time from patient care.

Physicians go into the profession to help people, using their knowledge and training to diagnose and treat patients. Shortly after medical school, however, reality kicks in. The “awesome responsibility” of healing patients must make room for the “mundane financial tasks” of the business side of health care, writes Robert Pearl, MD, in a column for Forbes:
As much as half of each day can be consumed with clerical and administrative tasks: completing insurance claims forms, navigating complex coding requirements, and negotiating with insurance companies over prior approvals and payment rates. And this affects not only physicians, but also their patients — further complicating medical practice and increasing the level of frustration. 
Dr. Pearl spoke with New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who told the story of a physician whose support team consisted of three staff dedicated to paperwork and just one person dedicated to assisting the doctor with the patient.

“That’s insane,” said Mr. Gladwell. “You don’t train someone for all of those years of medical school and residency, particularly people who want to help others optimize their physical and psychological health, and then have them run a claims-processing operation for insurance companies.”

Earlier this year, a new study documented the same sentiment among physicians. The RAND Corp. study of physician satisfaction revealed bureaucracy and red tape interferes with physicians’ ability to provide quality care for their patients.

“Ultimately, most physicians went into medicine to care for patients,” Tina Philip, DO, told TMA’s Texas Medicine magazine about the study. “When there are so many roadblocks in the way of rules, regulations, and what amounts to busy work, it gets in the way of physicians providing care to their patients, which is what all of us would rather spend our time doing," she said.

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