Thursday, February 07, 2013

Do doctors charge too much ?

Most patients today feel that medicine is no longer a profession . The believe that it's become a business and that doctors are greedy and commercial – and that they charge too much. Sometimes it's easy to understand why they think so. You see a doctor for a brief five minute consultation – and he charges big bucks, just to check your pulse, blood pressure , listens to your heart and scribble a prescription ! It seems like easy money for such little effort, doesn't it ? And since there are so many patients waiting to see him, you do a rough mental calculation and conclude that he must be minting money !  This is a flawed perception , which causes doctors a lot of anguish , because it’s so far removed from reality !

The other problem is that patients feel that medicine is a noble profession ; and that the doctor should be selfless , and should be happy to treat patients without charging them an arm and a leg ! After  all , isn't that what doctors in the past used to do ? Why have modern doctors become so money minded ? Why can't they be like the good old doctors of yore who stayed up all night by the patient’s bedside, and travelled for hours on horseback to make home visits, simply for the joy of seeing the patient get better ! Seeing the smile on the patient’s face – and taking back home a kilo of vegetables - was enough reward for those doctors !

This burns doctors up, because they feel this is extremely unfair. They have spent years and years slogging and swotting in order to be able to practice medicine. Patients don’t seem to acknowledge this, or realize how much they have sacrificed in order to become a doctor. Doctors are aware that there is always a chance that the patient may take a turn for the worse – and if something does go wrong , the patient is quite likely to sue the doctor for medical negligence . Just like doctors have changed, so have patients ! Patients are no longer as grateful as they  used to be in the past – and neither are they as undemanding and accepting of the doctor’s authority. They don’t seem to repose the same faith in the doctor as a trusted professional which their grandparents did – and will often grill the doctor and cross question him. Doctors feel that if patients no longer treat them as respected professionals, but rather as commodities whose expert opinion they have paid for, then why should they continue to work for a pittance ?

Doctors believe that  neither the financial or the emotional rewards they earn today are commensurate with the amount of time and effort which they have invested. They compare themselves with other professionals – for example, lawyers , who charges hundreds of thousands of rupees for standing up in court and speaking for two minutes ! If corruption is so rampant in society; and if builders and politicians can earn more money in a single month than they can even by working for  every single day of their life , then what gives patients the right to judge them by a different yardstick ?

They resent the fact that patients so easily forget the thousands of sacrifices which they have had to make in order to become a doctor - burning the midnight oil to master the niceties of medical science; evenings spent away from the spouse; and a countless number of missed family functions and children’s plays and football games , just in order to take care of patients .

There is a lot of anger and resentment building up within the medical profession , and it upsets them when patients complain that they charge too much. After all , patients themselves work in their job in order to earn money, so what’s wrong if the doctor honestly earns money for doing his job ? If a doctor didn't earn enough money, then how would he be able to continue running his clinic to take care of his patients ?

Doctors do need to earn enough money to be able to provide good quality medical care . In fact , a well off doctor who has a comfortable income and does well for himself because he is successful is likely to be a far better doctor , because he's not likely to advise unnecessary surgery or do useless tests or treatments, because he doesn't need to ! On  the other hand , a financially strapped doctor is much more like to over- test and over-treat, in order to make ends meet. If your doctor is successful and is doing well, please don't grudge him his success – he has worked hard for it, and deserves what he
earns !

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