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Doctors Are “Sponges?”

I am a doctor. Go ahead, call me what you may. Group me into a neatly, prejudged category: “All you doctors.” Just don’t label me a sponge.

That’s right. Recently in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Andy Kessler, famous author and former hedge fund manager smart enough to turn $100 million into $1 billion, grouped doctors into a sub-category of the service economy which he labeled as “sponges.” We could have done worse: His other categories included “sloppers” (DMV workers), “slimers” (financial planners), and “thieves” (cable companies).

It seems that doctors — along with cosmetologists, lawyers, and real estate brokers — offend him because of the tests and licenses that we deem necessary:

Sponges are those who earned their jobs by passing a test meant to limit supply. According to this newspaper, 23% of U.S. workers now need a state license. The Series 7 exam is required for stock brokers. Cosmetologists, real estate brokers, doctors and lawyers all need government certification. All this does is legally bar others from doing the same job, so existing workers can charge more and sponge off the rest of us.

His essay goes on to argue the tired notion that technology endangers jobs in the service sector — the toll booth operator argument, again. He likes the creators of stuff: Apple and Google. (Duh.) But in my mind, doctoring is about creating something: We create better and longer lives for our patients. Ask the patient cured of cancer how happy they are that some doctor created his or her treatment plan. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Primary Care, Poverty, And Mortality In England And America

It is an article of faith that, in Barbara Starfield’s words, adults whose regular source of care is a primary care physician rather than a specialist have lower mortality, even after accounting for differences in income, and she draws upon studies at both the county and state levels to prove it. Now a new paper in JAMA about England’s Primary Care Trusts refocuses the discussion on poverty.

While Starfield’s county-level studies are often cited as evidence that more primary care physicians and fewer specialists lead to lower mortality, they actually showed virtually no differences at all. And when repeated by Ricketts, the small differences noted were not consistent throughout various regions of the U.S. On the other hand, “counties with high income-inequality experienced much higher mortality.” So, in reality, the county studies demonstrated the strong impact of poverty and the marginal impact (if any) of primary care. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

Will Physician Education Be Valued In The Future?

The future of American healthcare will not value physician education. Perhaps it’s time to abandon the medical school model and train millions of nurses instead at a fraction of the cost. This comment was left on my blog over at NP=MD:

I don’t even compare NPs and MDs. Their models differ. One is not better than the other. The schooling — minus the residency — is nearly equivalent in terms of time spent. The problem is that NPs don’t get a long enough residency. If you take a NP and a MD, both with 20 years clinical experience, the MD does not know more than the NP. Sure, he had a few extra classes 20 years ago — which he doesn’t remember — but that’s about it.

NPs aren’t trying to steal MDs’ meal tickets, they’re attempting to better serve patients. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Why Creating Healthcare “Consumers” Won’t Work

I [recently] gave a speech at the Midwest Business Group on Health’s (MBGH) 30th Annual Conference. The MBGH is one of the country’s leading organizations on healthcare, and its members include the leading innovators and thought leaders on healthcare in America. It was a privilege to present to them.

I spoke about why healthcare just isn’t a consumer business in spite of all of the effort to turn people into healthcare “consumers.”

At Best Doctors, we have a closeup view of what happens to people when they try to find their way through the healthcare system. It’s not a pleasant picture. Healthcare consumers –- if you can call them that –- are often lost, confused, frustrated, alone. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

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