What do I think of the Health Bill? That is one of the most common questions I have received of late. Do you notice the ? I place after “Health” in the title of this post. That summarizes my concern. My concern is this. I know the hoops my patients have had to go through who have had “good” insurance policies. I have read bits and pieces of the bill. I admit, I have not read through the over 2000 pages. No where do I see acknowledgement of the individual, and of individual variations and differences.
Insurance companies are only interested in statistics. Much of modern medicine is practiced according to statistics. “If your labs show ‘A’ then you have ‘A.’ How the person actually feels too often does not seem to matter. Too many times people have come to me complaining of symptoms, their doctor does a physical, checks labs, sees everything “normal,” and says either “You are just getting older” or “Would you like an antidepressant?” I am not joking! I find this tragic for several reasons.
The first reason is that something is wrong when the person does not feel well. Age is just an excuse. I don’t care if the person is 6, 16, 36, or 60. Everyone should feel well. If they don’t, then their body is telling them that something is not right. It is our responsibility to figure out what the problem is and to provide options for correcting it.
Another problem with the picture is the drastic is the change in the medical profession. When I went to medical school, my classmates were genuinely interested in helping people. I imagine most medical students still feel that way. However, the system is not letting them, not when they have only 5 minutes to spend with a patient because if they spend more then that, they won’t get paid. I have met too many doctors who have become discouraged with the direction medicine has taken. And they are not enjoying the experience of helping patients because they don’t have the opportunity to do so.
The third reason this is a problem is that we are ignoring the individual. Any individual is not a statistic. We are all different. We each have our own concerns and realities. We each have our own physiologies. Even identical twins grow up not being exactly alike. It is in those differences that the doctor and the patient together can find the causes of the symptoms. This can happen only if they take the time to do the proper detective work.
I don’t find detective work to be considered something “important” in the health care debate. And I refuse to be or to see my patients as statistics. Everyone is a valuable individual and will remain so in my book.