Sad State of Healthcare

People ask me why I don't regularly go to the doctor, and why I seem to be distrustful of those in the medical profession in general.  This is why. Healthcare in the U.S. has become a giant exercise in risk management.  Our overly litigious society caused insurance costs to skyrocket, so now it's become ridiculously expensive to guard against malpractice and it's taken power that belongs with doctors and healthcare professionals away and granted it to insurance companies.  We've also further chipped away at their power by handing the burden of our healthcare maintenance over to insurance companies as well.  Now who is managing the day-to-day detail of our health?  Insurance companies are.

Healthcare professionals are not without blame, though.  Instead of fighting to get back what was taken from them, most of them have simply elected to let the rest of us experience exactly what a society looks like that cedes control of its healthcare to bureaucrats.  They tell us things like "I'd give you Drug X at Y dosage, but your insurance company won't pay for it, so I'll give you Drug A at B dosage instead."  They make it painfully obvious that they'd prefer to pursue a particular treatment option, but they can't because they're afraid of getting sued.

Why?  Because they're people.  And they're people who put their own interests first, as they should.  Why jeopardize a great job that pays well?  Following whatever guidelines the insurance companies mandate will take care of most of the cases and make malpractice insurance less of a burden than it might otherwise be.

Doctors are people, too.  While it's true that most cultures elevate doctors to a near-mythic status with its own set of expectations, doctors are only human.  They make human mistakes.  A doctor this weekend made a really dumb one - one that I've seen people in my own business make.  She left a critical task for a Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  The chance that you're going to get another professional on the phone for a critical consultation on a Friday afternoon during the summer is pretty much nil.  Everybody in my office knows this, from the C-level executives to the interns.  Our doctor didn't.  As a result, someone spent the weekend suffering and perhaps didn't need to.

I've been reminded of this many times recently.  A doctor I called this weekend chose to send us on a wild goose chase trying to track down someone who could treat over the weekend.  It wasted hours.  (And it was probably designed just to get us off his back and pass the buck to the next person who could stall us.)

My own doctor called me recently to tell me that a Lyme disease test didn't deliver the clarity of results he was looking for.  I had gone in for an appointment earlier and someone along the line had told me that the Lyme disease tests weren't in yet.  Yet I went in for my appointment and was given the all clear signal.

Talking to my doctor on the phone, I wanted to ask him why he didn't just tell me that they made a mistake, that my Lyme disease test came in late, and that it was positive.  Instead, he's muddying the waters and telling me I need to take another test because the first one was inconclusive.  That wastes a week - a week I could be taking the doxycycline and getting this crap out of my system.

Truth be told, I know exactly why he won't admit his mistake.  It's because he operates in a culture where admitting to a mistake might cost him a lot of money.  Is it any surprise that there's no admission?

So, when people ask me why I'm distrustful of doctors, I'm going to start telling them that I'm no more distrustful of a doctor than I am of one of my fellow marketers, or my mechanic or the guy who winterizes my pool.  It's just that when we're talking about our health, there's so much more at stake than shelf space for a product launch, or a need for a tuneup, or a leak in a pipe.  Our welfare is at stake.

Yes, we have to learn to trust another human being to help us.  But when that other human being is handcuffed by bureaucracy, I worry that my trust is misplaced.  This is especially true when someone won't level with me and tell me that their hands are tied.

So, that's my long-winded explanation of why I distrust doctors and don't like going to visit them.  Maybe we'll get this figured out by the time I reach the age when I need things like regular cholesterol checks and colonoscopies, but I doubt it.