I Can’t Afford to Spend Time with My Patients

It’s friday, and I’m reflecting on my week. On tuesday, I went to the hospital at 1pm. I had six patients to see. Many physicians would have been out of the hospital within 30 or 40 minutes, but I was there for about three hours.

This is because when I see a patient, I can’t help but stay there as long as they need me to in order to fully explain the problem they have, talk about all the possible solutions, and answer all the questions they have.

The problem is that I get paid the same amount of money if I quickly rush through talking with the patient while doing a physical exam as I would if I take an hour to really get to know the patient, make them an educated part of their treatment process, and talk to family members until everyone’s questions are answered. It is definitely the most frustrating part of my job.

I have a fixed overhead every month, as every private practice physician does. The less time I spend with every patient, the more money I can make, and that’s a strange concept to understand since I feel doctors should also be reimbursed based on the quality of care.

Specifically, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that I can’t afford to pay my overhead (let alone take home a salary) if I take care of patients with lower reimbursing insurance, like Medicare. I literally do not get paid enough to cover my expenses unless I rush through so many patients that it is impossible to give them the care they deserve.

Medicaid is even worse. I spend two or three hours at a nursing home every week treating patients with wounds, and Medicaid reimburses me only $120 or so for the entire MONTH’S worth of visits. I’m literally losing money taking care of patients who need help.

I refuse to lower my standard of care, but I’m getting frustrated, and focusing on cosmetic surgery is the only way I can afford to be the kind of physician I expect of myself. I wish I had the answer to the healthcare crisis in this country, but I can assure everyone that paying physicians less money is not the answer.