What do people think of when they think of healthcare?
Expensive, inconvenient, purposefully opaque, out of touch, technologically awkward, confusing, patriarchal, bankrupting our nation, messy, …and the list goes on.
However, when you need complex care, and we save your life, we redeem ourselves. Because typically, when we do save your life, you burn through your deductible in the ambulance ride to the ER. Then, all the complexity and annoyances seem like a small price to pay to live another day.
But for the 90% of people who have never had their life saved by a doctor, healthcare is looking increasingly backward and out of touch. And we’re seeing evidence people are beginning to question the “authority” of physicians in things like the anti-vaccine movement. Dr. Google makes us all feel like first year medical students as folks become empowered by information. Soul Cycle and Whole Foods seem to know more about nutrition and exercise than your doctor. Because, honestly, who in their right mind would talk to their doctor about an exercise routine or a healthy diet? And the skepticism is justified— of the 40,000 hours of training I received in med school and residency, 19 of them were devoted to nutrition. And that was the nutrition needed to sustain a hospitalized patient.
Eight minute exam room conversations at $200 a pop aren’t set up for those kinds of issues. If it doesn’t involve a pill or a scalpel, well, doctors aren’t much help. And that’s why we’re seeing magazines at Whole Foods called “What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You.” We’re witnessing a sea change in our culture as folks can summon an uber in 3 minutes but can’t get in to see their PCP for 3 weeks.
If we, as a profession, don’t start to recognize this, our culture will look elsewhere for help. We’ve worked too hard for the last 100 years to develop some extraordinary life-saving advances. I don’t want all that vision and hard work to go to waste. We’ve got to reinvent ourselves for the modern era and acknowledge we don’t know everything and the services we’re offering look like the dark ages in an era of new services that work like magic.