Happy Physician, Happy Patient

by Ryan McQuaid

Last week, my Co-Founder and PlushCare CMO James Wantuck, MD wrote about how the current American health system does little to look out for the interest of its patients — the very people the system is supposed to help. Instead of creating an open and safe environment, most American patients feel at war with their health system. In James’s words, “the power lies in the hands of employers, health insurance providers, device manufacturers, hospitals — basically every entity except for the patient, the one who receives and ultimately pays considerably for the care.”

American patients are definitely getting the short end of the stick in our health system, but they’re not the only ones — physicians are also increasingly feeling the pressure. As the number of patients physicians are expected to see increases, so does the paperwork. All of this leads to those 3 minutes of facetime you get during your doctor visit we have all come to hate. How can we expect doctors to deliver exceptional care if they themselves are under excessive pressure?

In the past 20–30 years, reimbursements for office visits and procedures have been reduced in an effort to control health costs and push physicians from private practice into large integrated care networks. While this has concluded in some benefits, it’s also meant that doctors have been required to race from appointment to appointment, spending less time with patients. I’ve been there and I’m sure many other patients can relate — you wait 30 minutes to see your physician, only to have them spend 5 or 10 minutes with you, all the while you feel rushed and forget to ask them something important. Turns out, it may not have been the physician’s fault, but the fact that they’re jammed with appointments because their reimbursements for office visits have reduced drastically over the years.

How many of you have received tests that seem unnecessary, especially when you get the bill in the mail a month later? And how many of you point the finger at your physician? Unnecessary testing is an absolute reality of today’s health system, but what many of us don’t consider is what’s behind the push for testing. One reason is lack of time. If a physician only has a few minutes to see a patient, it’s likely they’ll feel more compelled to order additional tests to make sure they haven’t missed anything for the health of the patient. Additionally, malpractice is a common fear among American physicians and has lead many to order additional tests in order to protect themselves from a potential liability.

It’s not a coincidence that physicians are increasingly feeling the pressure to perform better and faster and healthcare companies traditionally rank low in net promoter scores (NPS), a measure that determines how likely customers are to recommend a company, product, or service to others. On the other hand, Southwest Airlines, a company that traditionally ranks high in NPS has publicly acknowledged that happy employees translate into happy customers. If the current health system doesn’t value its physicians, how are physicians going to deliver exceptional care to their patients?

There’s no denying that the current US health system is riddled with issues, some that seem too complicated to fix. While there’s not always a clear path to a solution, at PlushCare we’ve recognized that our physicians deserve recognition and respect in order for them to do what they do best. Each and every physician on our team speaks to the PlushCare mission of delivering health and happiness. We know that if we don’t take care of our physicians, they won’t be able to take care of our patients.

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PlushCare provides virtual doctor’s visits from the comfort of your home, office, or wherever you’re located. For $49 our world-class doctors will diagnose, treat, and prescribe you medication. For more information or to book an appointment, visit plushcare.com.