Healthcare Not Talking the Talk

The time pressures imposed on primary care physicians by Medicare and many managed care plans are causing a communications crisis between doctors and patients, according to a recent OpEd piece in the Nashua Telegraph. The author, Kevin Pho, MD, a primary care doctor

“A physician who repeatedly handles patient requests outside of an office visit will lose money.”—Kevin Pho, MD

The time pressures imposed on primary care physicians by Medicare and many managed care plans are causing a communications crisis between doctors and patients, according to a recent OpEd piece in the Nashua Telegraph. The author, Kevin Pho, MD, a primary care doctor in New Hampshire and one of the nation’s most articulate physician-bloggers at KevinMD, cites busy physician schedules jammed with 15-minute office visits that leave no time for any in-depth talks between doctor and patient.

Without time for worthwhile questions and answers, patients often leave the office with only a minimal understanding of the doctor’s instructions. The prime culprit is a reimbursement system that fails to recognize the value of time spent with patients and time spent coordinating their care with other doctors and healthcare professionals. Also at fault is poor use of technology, from electronic medical records to e-mail and virtual office visits.

Dr. Pho recommends reimbursing doctors for virtual office visits, which would encourage greater use of online technology and improve communications between doctor and patient. EMRs greatly improve coordination of a patient’s medical care, a fact that government and other third-party payers should recognize by helping doctors with the steep cost of installing EMR systems. A recent study by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts shows that doctors realize few of the financial benefits of EMRs but are currently expected to shoulder almost all of the costs of putting them in place.

76%Percentage of physicians who feel that their reimbursable income has actually decreased as healthcare insurance premiums have increased. (Jackson & Coker 2008 Physician Compensation Survey)