I see very little of what we used to consider a doctor – patient relationship. I hear of times when patients knew their doctors by names, chose practitioners based on positive outcomes had by friends, family referrals, and so on. Today it tends to be insurance dictating who you have the opportunity to see. Single doctor and smaller PCP offices tend to get gobbled up by larger healthcare organizations, continuity of care declines, and we’re often left with patients changing doctors as often as they change insurance. We love seeing our patients come back but understand when they don’t due to changes in insurance. Nobody wants to pay for insurance and then have to pay out of pocket. We love it when it happens but it usually takes building a relationship before anybody would consider it.
We’re new. Because of this, most of our patients end up here due to their insurance and choosing us within their network. Many find us through social media or google searches, but either way, we welcome one and all and treat everybody as if they were family. Being the only doctor and living in the Downtown area, I see patients at work as well as the grocery store and the bar on a Saturday night. I think being a part of the community you serve is rewarding and provides a unique view and experience. I really enjoy the ability to get to know my patients both inside and out of clinic.
I initially was employed at a practice where I actively stayed in my office unless in the room during patient care. It’s not that I didn’t want to interact or build relationships, more so that most of these interactions led to HIPPA protected conversations that just couldn’t be had in a waiting room. Phone calls led to messages left for me on paper and that I actively answered, on paper, and had somebody else call the patient back. It was rare that I actively interacted with a patient on the phone. We worked 4-10hr days and with no built in admin time so if I wanted to call a patient this was likely happening on my lunch hour or other time where I likely didn’t have enough time to have a drawn out conversation.
This circles back around to a hot topic today that we often see in the papers – doctor burnout. Oftentimes the amount of clinic hours aren’t supported by enough administrative hours and this leaves practitioners constantly scrambling to finish charts, see patients, answer calls, review medication refills, review incoming chart notes, keep up with current treatment trends, etc. What we see happening concurrently is the amount of patients being seen in those timeframes increases and our per patient time decreases. This decreases time with our patients, minimizes time to build relationships, and hopefully doesn’t lead to a diminished level of care.
So now we have likely overworked doctors seeing too many patients and a patient base that is likely controlled by their insurance. Loyalty to individual doctors decreases and a patient’s ability to choose a practitioner is greatly reduced. I think it’s important to get to know your doctor. While everybody receives the same training, how we adapt, the other information we take in along the way, our mentors, and even reps that stop by our practices all have influence over the way we practice. I think it’s important to understand why your doctor makes the decisions they make, why they recommend what they do, and how those are all going to affect you as the patient. So get to know your doctor and work to build a relationship. Lets work together to make healthcare more user friendly.