A New Look At Wasteful Spending And Health Care

Medical Spending Out Of Control

In the world of concierge medicine, there isn’t a lot of room for wasteful spending. In order to offer the best possible health care, 24-7 services, and top-of-the-game technology, there rarely is a penny lost. And when you factor in the statistics that show the patients of concierge doctors are far less likely to make emergency room visits, pretty much all concepts of wasteful spending go right out the window.

According to a New York Times articles that was released earlier this morning, researchers have calculated that more than half of the 354 million doctor visits made each year for acute medical care, like for fevers, stomachaches and coughs, are not with a patient’s primary physician, and that more than a quarter take place in hospital emergency rooms.

This definitely begs the question, as the NYTimes states; can access to primary care be maintained, much less improved, when an already inadequate and inefficient system takes on an expected 32 million newly insured customers?

Last week we tackled the tough questions about health care, concierge medicine, and ethics. Today, it seems, the question of the week is how ethical is general primary care when it is currently “inadequate and inefficient,” says the NYTimes.  How can anyone question the ethical responsibilities of a concierge doctor and not reevaluate the ethical balance of health care reform. A balance that is hanging on a wire as primary care doctors cannot even keep up with the amount of patients they have today, let alone the amount of patients they will have when over 30 million Americans will become insured through health care reform.

There is one simple reason why patients are visiting the ER and paying more for acute medical care; they can’t get into see their family physician without waiting weeks. Of the nearly 180 million emergency room visits mentioned above, most of those visits occurred on weekends or after hours. With a concierge doctor, after hours and weekends are all part of the care and treatment that you receive.

“More and more patients regard the emergency room as an acceptable or even proper place to go when they get sick,” Dr. Pitts said, “and the reality is that the E.R. is frequently the only option. Too often, patients can’t get the care they need, when they need it, from their family doctor.”

What does that quote say about the state of our current health care system? If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times; where is the incentive for family physicians to increase their patient volume when they’re already overloaded? How does the government expect to save money with health care reform when millions upon millions of dollars are being thrown away every year as patients visit the ER instead of their family physician?