What Do Doctors Read?

New Year’s resolutions, gotta lose weight, exercise more.  It does get a bit annoying to read all of our good intentions and then we fall off the wagon one more time!  As I look ahead to 2015, I begin my term (one year) as president of Tulsa County Medical Society (TCMS).  No resolutions I can’t keep, just hard work and lots of meetings.  The best way for me to share my thoughts and vision for 2015 is to let you in on my first newsletter of the year.  (unabridged)

TCMS

It’s Monday morning and I haven’t rested well from the weekend. With a full schedule at the office, I don’t have time for interruptions. I check my e-mail first thing in the morning and today I wish I hadn’t. I have four prior authorization phone calls to complete today, and two of them have already been denied. “What?” I asked as the insurance representative informed me that the patient in question didn’t qualify for the CT sinus study because they hadn’t been on antibiotics for 2 months. “Aren’t we supposed to use antibiotics judiciously?” I asked. But my troubles today were just beginning. After an early morning administrative meeting, I found out I hadn’t reached my quota of RVUs and was subsequently warned that my end of the year bonus was in jeopardy. With that news hot off the press, I raced to see my first patient only 45 minutes late. They were annoyed that I hadn’t respected their time even though I had just found a novel way to treat their persistent sinus infections. Lunch hour came quickly, and I was looking forward to a few minutes by myself when my worst fear walked into the office. I was summoned by the local sheriff regarding a lawsuit that had just been filed against me.

While the above story is fictitious, please check yourself for sweaty palms. As the New Year begins, we as doctors are feeling pressure from all sides. See more patients, up your patient satisfaction survey scores, lower the cost of your services, and make no mistakes or you’ll end up in court are unspoken, yet very real impediments to our motivation to become doctors in the first place. I for one, don’t believe that the joy of medicine is lost forever, but we as physicians will have to hone our skills and work together to heal our profession in this world of change.

But be sure of this. Doctors are still doctors, and regardless of the mounting pressures we face, we have all taken oaths at some point in our training to uphold specific ethical standards as our rite of passage for practitioners of medicine. Listen to doctors, and what do you hear? We still want comradery to discuss how we live and cope with the busy demands of life, and most of us still want what’s best for patients. (And not just our own) I’m often impressed and encouraged after dialogues with you regardless of your specialty or place of medical practice.

So how do we make medicine fun again? Consider our challenge in 2015—Thinking Outside of the Box in a Positive Way for our Profession!

  1. Without a doubt, we can’t go back to the way medicine was practiced in the 1950’s. (And who wants medicine before stent placements & MRIs?) We’ll need to learn ways to deliver quality care as members of teams. Teams of providers, insurance companies, hospital systems, and computer nerds. Thinking outside of the box is simply another way of appreciating your creativity. We’re a creative bunch and there’s no reason lightening can’t strike in the same place twice!
  2. Change is upon us and we must participate in meaningful change. I can list all of the issues and topics that are going wrong with medicine, but you have better things to do with your time! Change is more meaningful if solutions are positive and result in “everybody wins” mentality. One of our purposes at TCMS is to foster the social aspects of meeting with colleagues and spouses over dinner to think of new ideas to solve the old problems. I wonder what would happen if….your enthusiasm is contagious.
  3. Enough time given to legislation, patient outcomes, and scope of practice for the doctor wannabes. What about us? Any meaningful change for us as MDs and DOs should in some way make our medical care more fulfilling and effective for the patients we serve. As a group, we made a significant impact on tort reform in the state of Oklahoma, but don’t forget about the power of one. Not all improvements to our medical system can be quantified in terms of policies, laws, and new regulations. Appreciation to a colleague for a job well done, paying attention to the little things you do every day can’t be included in your paycheck, but make me feel like a million bucks when I slow down long enough to hear them.

That being said, what can I really do to make an impact? Remember what you said during your medical school interview, “I want to help people?” There is no time like the present. I wish you the best for 2015; your ideas and participation are not only encouraged but essential to your success.

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