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The Future Of American Healthcare

You want to see a doctor? You’re going to have to wait. And I don’t mean like an hour in the office. I mean like 53 days.

It’s not some doomsday story from the future. It’s happening today here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts — the state whose 2006 law was the model for the federal healthcare reform law. Massachusetts — home to some of the world’s best medical centers and doctors. And, as the Boston Globe’s “White Coat Notes” blog reports, Massachusetts — home to doctor shortages and long waits to see a doctor:

When primary care patients do secure an appointment for a non-urgent matter, they have to wait to get in the door, the survey found. The average delay is 29 days to see a family medicine doctor, down from 44 days last year, and 53 days to see an internist, up from 44 days last year.

The report said shortages also exist in dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology, and vascular surgery.

But what about costs? If you make sure everyone’s covered, you’ve got the foundation for real cost control, right? Unfortunately, no. Healthcare costs have been booming in Massachusetts:

Costs are rising relentlessly for both families and for the state government. The median annual premium for family plans jumped 10% from 2007 to 2009 to $14,300 — again, that’s a substantial rise on top of an already enormous number. For small businesses, the increase was 12%. In 2006, the state spent around $1 billion on Medicaid, subsidies for medium-to-lower earners, and other health-care programs. Today, the figure is $1.75 billion. The federal government absorbed half of the increase.

So what are the lessons for the future of American healthcare? Read more »

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

A 3-Point Solution To Long Waits At The Doctor’s Office

I have an easy solution to a vexing problem in today’s healthcare crisis. A problem so widespread that it’s worth hundreds of words in the Wall Street Journal: Long wait times at the doctor’s office.

But first, before I give my simple, pragmatic, master-of-the-obvious solution, let me say something truthful: I try. I try really hard — to run on time, that is.

I’ve been there myself — a patient in a gown, in a cold room with only big pharma-sponsored propaganda on the walls to stare at.

At the risk of a sounding like a…blogger, let it be said that practicing quality medicine in the current luxury of technology is much more complicated than it used to be. Such complexity devours our most precious treasure: Time with the patient. Read more »

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

Waiting In The ER Is Okay As Long As Patients Know How Long

Patients don’t mind waiting in the ER as long as they’re kept apprised of the time, an industry survey revealed. This is a good thing, since ER waits have risen nationally to an average of four hours and seven minutes this year.

Press Ganey Associates, Inc., has conducted the survey annually and says that ER wait times are four more minutes than last year, or a half hour more than the first survey in 2002. The company collected data on 1.5 million patients treated at 1,893 hospitals in 2009.

Despite longer wait times, patient satisfaction with U.S. hospital emergency departments stayed about the same in 2009. Communication was the key, as patients who waited more than four hours, but received “good” or “very good” information about delays were just as satisfied as patients who spent less than one hour in the emergency department.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

Get A Discount If Your Doctor Is Running Late?

Should doctors face consequences if they run late? From The New York Times’ health blog, Well, comes a story where a medical group promises “same-day appointments and longer, more personalized visits that start on time.”

Sounds good, right? But it comes with a caveat, namely, a $199 annual membership fee. A tremendous amount of primary care can be bought with that amount of money, and if patients were willing to pay that, service will most definitely improve. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*

Is Your Doctor Running Late? Check It Out Online

I just read a Wall Street Journal article about a new web-based service called MedWaitTime that allows patients to check if their doctor is running late before heading to the office for their appointment – kind of like you can check to see if your flight is late before heading to the airport.

Brilliant.

Nothing peeves me more than sitting in a doctor’s office reading 4-month-old tattered magazines on topics I care nothing about (saltwater fishing, seriously?), and not because the doctor had an emergency (when is the last time a dermatologist had to run out to save someone), but because the office staff routinely double books. I can’t count the number of times I walked out (my limit is 30 minutes unless I’m in agony) after giving the front office a targeted piece of my mind. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

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