A Primary Care Doctor’s Secret of Caring for Her Patients
Written by Dwana M. Bush, M.D.
Before my keynote presentation at Emory University School of Medicine’s National Primary Care Day, I informally surveyed several professors in the audience: “What is your greatest concern in teaching medical students.” Each responded, “They may not be able to practice the way we teach them in ‘the real world.’”
Training for Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians are trained to care for approximately 80% of patients’ health needs. We work to keep our patients from getting sick or injured, to get them better as quickly as possible when illness inevitably comes, and to get them seen by skillful, thoughtful specialists when needed. We are here to partner with our patients in their health, to avert unhelpful tests and treatments, and to avoid unnecessary urgent care & ER visits, consultations and hospitalizations.
Over the past 30 years, my patients and I have worked together to continue to get their needs met despite the “solutions” that the ever-changing medical industrial complex has given us to navigate. Insurance language used to describe my role has “evolved” from “family doctor” to “gatekeeper” to “triage” to “computer box clicker” (my words). Through all of the burdensome requirements placed upon me, I have always held steadfast to being a doctor.
Regulations Have Changed
However, continually expanding health insurance regulations have made this increasingly difficult. I now must spend over 50 percent of my time and focus on activities that do not help my patients. I fight my way through prior authorizations for commonly used medicines and essential testing; wade through numerous insurance formularies that tell me which medications are covered (and in essence able to be prescribed); respond to denials of payments due to pre-existing conditions; and navigate ever-changing lists of specialists who accept my patients’ insurance.
The current insurance financing model takes valuable time and focus from both physicians and our patients. The billing scheme limits my ability to provide care in ways that best meet my patients’ needs. For example, we have tremendous technological tools that would allow me to manage many health issues without seeing the patient in the office and in doing so this would avoid significant inconvenience for my patients. However, the system tells us that unless a patient comes into my office, any medical advice or care that I provide has no value.
How HIPnation Can Help
By removing the distraction of the insurance system, the HIPnation model allows us, as physicians, to reclaim our time and focus on providing customized, personalized patient care in ways that are effective, efficient and respectful of the patients’ time and talent. This can be expressed in simple ways — patients no longer have to lose half a day to come to the office for care that could be handled by a timely phone call or email. Additionally, timely phone advice from specialists can help us avoid costly and unhelpful consultations, tests and interventions for our patients.
I used to teach my medical students:
“The time we spend with patients ‘in the room’ is sacred.”
“The price we pay for this opportunity ‘in the hallway’ (dealing with the burden of insurance) can feel chaotic and demoralizing.”
Primary care physicians no longer have to accept the false trade-off of practicing patient-focused care with the distraction and chaos wrought by fighting for insurance payments for our services.
Now I teach medical students the art of patient care while role modeling what it means to practice in a patient-centric model such as HIPnation. Our focus is now where it belongs — squarely upon our patients. The secret of caring for our patients is caring for our patients.
Are you looking for affordable, flexible healthcare options? Try our alternative health insurance membership, starting at $100/month with 24/7 access to your doctor. Contact us at HIPnation to learn more.