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7 Facts Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

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As much as I think I’m a pretty good negotiator I know that when I go to a car dealership, I’m at a disadvantage because they have industry knowledge that I don’t. We all have experienced that in our lives. Any job that you hold undoubtedly results in gaining industry knowledge that others don’t have. When I worked at McDonalds as a teenager I gained a knowledge of the fast food industry although some of that knowledge has made me a little more choosy about where I choose to eat.

When we go to our doctor’s office the same thing happens. It’s a business and their goal is to downplay the negatives and advertise the positives and as a result you may not know everything about your doctor that you would like.

“You Better Call Early”

Only one third of all doctors are primary care physicians according to an article by Smartmoney yet doctors’ offices are flooded with people who have common ailments that don’t need the care of a specialist. If you’re pretty sure that you’re going to need a prescription for something, make your appointment now because they aren’t going to fit you in when you’re really hating life. They don’t want to tell you that and appear customer unfriendly but when you’re really sick, don’t expect to get in that day.

“We Know You Have to Work!”

They realize you have a day job because they have one too. Complaining about the fact that you have to miss work to see the doctor isn’t going to get you anywhere. Not only have they heard that for years, you were the one who called them.

“I’m a Slave to the Insurance Companies”

Since you don’t have the money to pay for your medical care out of your own pocket, your doctor has to keep your insurance company happy in order to make you better. Your insurance company may keep you from seeing a certain specialist, getting a certain test, or allowing you an adequate amount of hospital care. That’s not your doctor’s fault.

“I’m not Telling you My History”

If you want to see if your doctor has been sued or has any disciplinary actions against him, be prepared to do some digging. Try the National Practitioner Data Bank or county court records.

“If you’re over 65, I don’t know if I can Help”

Current statistics indicate that there is only one geriatrician for every 5,000 elderly patients. This is largely because elderly patients who have more problems that need treated pay the least because of Medicare. As one doctor put it, “its fiscal suicide” to treat elderly patients.

“What’s With the Computers?”

With everything becoming digital, you would think that your doctor would harness the power of technology to make their life and yours easier but that’s not the case. Although electronic records are slowing catching on, the cost of the technology is expensive. For now, expect the same old thick files for your medical records especially if you have a doctor not accustomed to using modern technology.

“It Ain’t What it Used to Be”

Although the median salary for primary care physicians is just over $200,000, new doctors are coming out of college with an average of $130,000 of debt. Dealing with insurance companies is becoming more difficult while also paying out less money. Doctors are facing new challenges to their business models that they haven’t seen in the past causing many to become part of healthcare networks instead of running their business the way they would like.

The business of medicine is changing rapidly as new regulations are enacted. If your doctor’s office seems a little more like a business than an old time country doctor, it’s because the business of medicine is becoming more challenging.

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20 Responses to “7 Facts Your Doctor Won’t Tell You”

  1. Lance says:

    Hi,
    While this may be the norm, I have to disagree with that always being the case.

    I work at a small employee-owned company (about 150 employees). We have recently brought a doctor onsite. He has a small office within our office building – and comes here three times a week. I can walk over and ask him a question. I can call and schedule an appt for later this week (for me or any of my family members). I can call his cell phone and ask him an urgent question.

    True that he can’t perform everything right here. Still, for the vast majority of basic things, though, I’m covered by just going to the office right here at work. And – the bonus is that there is no co-pay if I go to this doctor.

    He’ll also make house calls, if necessary. And has an office offsite for other appt times that fall outside of the 3 days he is onsite.

    The idea behind this – which we have just put in place – is around actively managing our personal healthcare. So far – I think it’s working (we’ve had this now for about 6 months).

    Because of this arrangement – the doctor is not paid by any pharmaceutical company, nor does he make any more or less depending upon the quantity of patients he sees. It’s about providing quality care.

  2. Sun says:

    Its not our fault doctor’s are coming out of medical school with debt. You can work even harder when you are in medical, or you can work even harder (plus interest on debt). Don’t blame us for how you finance your education.

    > “We Know You Have to Work!”

    If you know we have to work, why the hell aren’t you open weekends?

    • Sun says:

      > “We Know You Have to Work!”

      If you know we have to work, why do we have to wait to be seen after we have a confirmed appointment time? What’s the point of an appointment if we have to arrive early or wait until you are ready to see us?

      • Scott says:

        This second point is a good one (maybe not the first). If your doctor does not keep appointments, kindly tell them that you will not be returning and will go to a doctor that does. Same as in all businesses, good doctors keep patients/customers, bad doctors lose them.

      • Mitra says:

        The best way to be seen in a timely manner is to ask for the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch.

      • NanWan says:

        Point taken. I always thought cell phone notifications should be able to be programmed and sent to patients when a provider is behind schedule to reduce the wait time. You have to remember that sometimes the unexpected happens, and a provider has to take extra time with a patient scheduled before you or when another patient is “squeezed in” which causes them to fall behind. I’d like to think that my provider would give me the “extra” time to care for me if it was necessary and patients in the waiting room would be more compassionate and understanding when delays happen. Doctors run a “business” practice, but can’t be expected to run like a “regular” business. Sometimes, we are talking life and death issues here.

    • Easton says:

      #1. Actually, you can’t work during medical school. Most schools forbid it. And you’re unlikely to do much extra work during residency or fellowship. Residents “only” work 80 hours a week now. It used to be 100-120. Are you going to go work an extra shift an 7-11 after that? I doubt it.

      Your brilliant solution to “work even harder” means that the doctor sees more patients faster, which means less time per patient. Next time you complain that the doctor was only in there for a few minutes, you’ll know why.

      #2. If you’ve worked 8-6 M-F, do you want to be open on Sat/Sun as well?

      • Sun says:

        #1 Most schools != all schools. You can get full rides in exchange for work. Hard to get, but it is possible. Work harder != work faster.

        #2 You don’t have to work M-F. You can shift your schedule and take a week day as your holiday. Hey, if I am working extra hours to pay off debt, doctors can choose to work more hours if they want.

      • Strebkr says:

        I have heard you can’t work during med school. This makes sense to me considering how difficult it must be.

        • NanWan says:

          Even allied health professionals are discouraged from working during their graduate level programs. My daughter is in a doctoral Physical Therapy program…not as grueling as an M.D. program (but still extremely tough) so working is out of the question while in school. She will have better hours once she’s through , but she will have lots of debt and a salary that will make it a challenge to pay off her school loans which will be very stressful and have to postpone marriage, childbearing. etc. We have to cut our healthcare providers a lot more slack and not make assumptions that they all live lives of ease and priviledge and expect them to be able to accommodate patients with unrealistic expectations about their availability.

  3. daenyll says:

    lets not forget the pharma type kickbacks. yes more laws have limited what they can get away with, but don’t think for a minute they’re totally done and gone

  4. lostAnnfound says:

    “I’m not Telling you My History”

    Check you states website for Medical Board of Registration or something similar for information about MDs. Massachusetts’ website has a bunch of information, including malpractice and disciplinary/criminal actions, as well as educational background and training, publications, and board certifications.

  5. Shirley says:

    My goodness, I didn’t realize how fortunate we were in dealing with the Sutter Medical Group! We sre seniors in our early 70s and we have been with them for the last 15 years. In that time we have had three different primary care doctors (two moved to different locales) and have been referred to seven specialists as needed.

    - We can get an appointment for within two days (most often that same day) if we are not well. Appointments are open from 8am to 7pm. The Urgent Care Clinic and the ER are open 24/7.

    - Our insurance is Medicare with an HMO and we only pay the co-payment ($10 to $20). Prescriptions are often accompanied by free samples and are always generic when possible.

    - Sutter has web access where each doctor has his/her profile listed including picture, education, specialties, languages spoken, medical address and phone number. With that info a Google search is a snap.

    - It also has secure online access to your medical records, test results, appointment making/cancellation, Rx renewal, and messages to or from the office.

    - During the time when my parents were in failing health, I even sent/received info directly to/from their doctor by email.

    I really can’t think of anything more that I would want from a doctor or medical group and now I’m going to give him a great big thank-you the next time I see him!

  6. Bob says:

    You suggest checking the National Practitioner Data Bank to get information on your doctor’s record. Unfortunately you can’t do this.

    By law, the Data Bank’s information is not available to the public. You cannot learn of malpractice payments, state licensure sanctions, clinical privileges sanctions, Medicare/Medicaid sanctions, etc., from the Data Bank even though the Data Bank has all this information.

    Congress should change the law to make this information public.

  7. timparker says:

    There are no pharma “kickbacks”. My wife is a pharmaceutical sales rep and the amount of regulation is huge. She has lunches for them and takes them coffee and sometimes a cookie. Sound familiar? It’s what happens in every industry. You do what you can for facetime.

    What DOES happen is that generic drug makers give pharmacies kickbacks for switching from name brand products sometimes without a generic equivelent to a similar generic.

  8. timparker says:

    Strebkr:

    My understanding is that there were such kickbacks in the past. Another thing to consider is that we’re living in a different age now. Doctors care far more about not being sued than they care about what they get from big pharma.


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