Monday, March 05, 2012

What Doctors Can Do About The Healthcare Crisis

This is a guest post by Ellie Moon about the growth of costs in healthcare and what healthcare providers can do about the coming healthcare crisis.

Medical care today can be a minefield. Doctors are ever more pressed to work longer hours and provide greater levels of care while the needs of patients seem to be ever increasing. In one this is great for business as medical insurance is taken up by patients who are worried that their local health care provider can’t meet their needs.

Costs spiraling

Thomson Reuters reported that health care costs have been increasing for patients at about 7% per year. This is combined with increases in employer contributions at approximately 12% and yet people are still buying up insurance because of fears over lack of services and provision and a desire to have the best possible drugs. Around the world there are various protections in place to protect patients and ensure that critical care is delivered; the NHS is perhaps one of the best examples of this but there is also the European Health Insurance card system and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labour Act in the U.S. So is there a problem in these government sponsored schemes and services or does private medical care provide better care for patients?

There have certainly been cases where patients have felt greater stress and worry over the quality of their care and this has impacted on the recovery time. It would seem sensible if hospitals, doctors and the administration systems behind the care provided are more focused on reassuring patients over the quality of their care rather than on what is available based on the patient’s insurance package or based on the local hospital’s resources. Unfortunately, these are the times we live in and some patients will get better care simply because they have better insurance and more money. So is there a role for hospital staff to do their best to ensure that the best possible care is made available for everyone?

Of course there is. The amount of litigation that hospitals and staff face is rising and so whilst it is clear that the legalities and consents in a patients care are correctly covered, so is the need to ensure that the patient and the patient’s family feels valued and respected. Doctors need to ensure that they use their emotional intelligence and respond to the needs of those in their care. Medical professionals need to take into account the patient's worries (which could have little to do with their illness but everything to do with their finances) and give the patient time to express their concerns and be listened to. In short, a patient needs to have time to express their worries and concerns and have them relieved or at least lessened, so that they can then focus on getting better.

Medical Staff and Patient Care

Often medical staff are challenged by the behaviour of a patient who is reacting to their situation in a manner charged by emotion. Rational thought can become difficult when faced with bad news, especially regarding your health and there are many thoughts which could be going through the patient's mind:
  • "I’m ill – I could die"
  • "I don’t want to die…"
  • "Why can’t I have that treatment, I can’t afford this…"
  • "This illness is not fair…"
All of these thought processes are understandable when viewed outside a fraught environment but when faced with all the challenges of illness and financial difficulty an argument can become heated and people make accusations. In some cases this can even led to legal action much of which could be avoided if medical staff had the time and resources to exercise a little more empathy and consideration. It is clear that a doctor can’t solve the financial or personal problems a patient may have; however expressing an understanding of those problems can go a long way to helping the patient feel reassured and feel that they had a good experience in hospital (even if they didn’t have gold plated insurance).

So, doctors need to consider the wider context or life outside the hospital and what the patients are going through personally as individuals. A kind word, an understanding comment or smile can reassure patients and their families and build the essential trust needed for them to feel comfortable or at least not upset in the doctor's presence. The patient may, unfortunately be in a position where the care available is not going to meet their needs but this doesn't mean it can't be provided in the best possible way. As medical professionals it is important to provide a safe and neutral environment in which patients can be treated and recover with the help of the best medical package they can afford.

Ellie Moon used to work retail for a living but five years ago she took the leap and began writing full time. As a freelance writer she has had the opportunity to write for a huge range of companies, including a PMI insurance service, which she finds much more satisfying than answering phones all day.

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