Physician, Shut Thy Mouth

Some doctors find themselves struggling with innovations and requirements designed to help them practice medicine more effectively, and some of those innovations cut into their income. Woe is the poor doctor, struggling to get by on a quarter of a million dollars a year.

A while back National Public Radio reported that a special, limited-term federal program that offered bonuses to doctors to take on more Medicare payments was coming to an end and some doctors were none too happy about it. One doctor told NPR he’d need to see more patients to make up for the lost income: “We have to, when someone has five conditions and takes five minutes to get into the room. The basic office visit is 30 minutes.”

This is ridiculous in more ways than one.

First, as someone who has accompanied one of those very slow-moving patients to a doctor’s office – hi, mom – The Curmudgeon can tell you that it does not take five minutes to get a patient into the exam room.

Second, a well-run office – actually, even a not-so-well-run office – has those patients already in the exam room when the doctor arrives. It’s pretty standard. The bigger problem may be waking up those patients for their exams because they spend so much time in the exam room just waiting for the doctor that it becomes tempting to lie down on the big exam table and try to catch 40 winks.

caduceus_smAnd third, a doctor that spends 30 minutes on a basic office visit? In what alternative universe?

Doctors need to shut up and do their jobs or find another line of work – one that presumably pays more than the median of $180,000 a year that geriatricians earn.

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