Go for the Gold in the Physician Olympics

Physician's Money Digest, May 2006, Volume 13, Issue 5

How can anyone forgetthe memorable eventsof this past WinterOlympics in Torino?What can be morechallenging than snowboard cross—careening down a circuitous course ona small piece of wood with three othercompetitors trying to crash into you;or men's aerials, where you hurl 50 feetin the air, twisting around crazily, endeavoringto maintain perfect form andend up landing not on your head, whichwould probably kill you, but on yourskis pointing in the correct direction?

I have it on good authority that in aparallel universe, the Olympics are a littledifferent: the inhabitants have discoveredthat being a doctor is way moredifficult than being an athlete. Duringthe broadcast of these games on theinterdimensional cable channel, you'llwatch those doctors push themselves tothe limit in their quest for that perfectscore in both the art as well as the technicaland scientific aspects of medicine.

Not Ready for Prime Time

In our medical arena, we're here forour first contestant, who faces the challengeof a patient with a 105-degreefever, begging for antibiotics over thephone. Wow, look at how our doctorskillfully nudges her into the office. Thejudges like it! He gets a 9 for artisticmerit. In the office, our physician correctlydiagnoses her pneumonia andprescribes the right antibiotic withoutlooking it up on Epocrates. That's an 8for technical difficulty.

Now for the hardest part: codingcorrectly and getting paid. Oh no! Hefell down! That's a mandatory loss of 2points for technical merit. It's going tobe hard for our doctor to get a medalunless he gets a perfect score in the restof the performance. The next maneuver,another hard one, is to convinceher to fill the prescription and actuallytake the pills. Here is a time-compressedvideo from our patient cam.Incredible! She fills the script and takesall the pills correctly. You don't see thatone very often. A 10 for artistic merit!He's back as a medal contender.

Medal Contender

Now, let's go to our new Olympicsurgical arena. We're here for the finalcontestant, whose elderly patient has abroken hip. His first challenge is to gethim out of the backed-up ER and ontothe floor. There's his time: 8 hours 27minutes. Close to a new Olympicrecord! He's going to get a 10 for artisticachievement on that one. His nextproblem is getting OR time. As usual,the operating rooms are filled up by thehospital's favorite surgeon, who runsan assembly line of well-paying proceduresand attracts numerous patientsfrom out of state. The hospital reallyloves this guy; he won a world championshipat last year's European games.

But wait, our doctor is sweet-talkingthe OR scheduler and she's giving himOR time! Very impressive. He's almostat the end of his program, and his timeis pretty good. But the home stretch hasa hairpin curve: a call from a distant relativewho demands to have the patienttransferred to the Mayo Clinic. Our surgeoncould be disqualified if this happens.If he can persuade the relative tolet him operate, he could still get somepoints for technical merit, although, asyou know, most judges consider operatingthe easiest part of these programs.

Grey's

Anatomy

As the theme music from plays in the background atthe medal ceremony, our gold medalist,who receives 100% of his fee, standsbeside the silver medalist, who gets80%, and the bronze medalist whoonly received 50%. Still, they're happierthan those who went home with nothing.Good luck at the next games?ortomorrow for that matter.

Louis L. Constan, a family practice physician

in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the

Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin

and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes

questions or comments at 3350 Shattuck

Road, Saginaw, MI 48603, 989-792-1899, or louisconstan@hotmail.com.