A Doctor by Choice, a Businessman by Necessity

Sandeep Jauhar in The New York Times:

Sandeep To meet the expenses of my growing family, I recently started moonlighting at a private medical practice in Queens. On Saturday mornings, I drive past Chinese takeout places and storefronts advertising cheap divorces to a white-shingled office building in a middle-class neighborhood. I often reflect on how different this job is from my regular one, at an academic medical center on Long Island. For it forces me, again and again, to think about how much money my practice is generating. A patient comes in with chest pains. It is hard not to order a heart-stress test when the nuclear camera is in the next room. Palpitations? Get a Holter monitor — and throw in an echocardiogram for good measure. It is not easy to ignore reimbursement when prescribing tests, especially in a practice where nearly half the revenue goes to paying overhead.

Few people believed the recent pledge by leaders of the hospital, insurance and drug and device industries to cut billions of dollars in wasteful spending. We’ve heard it before. Without fundamental changes in health financing, this promise, like the ones before it, will be impossible to fulfill. What one person calls waste, another calls income. It is doubtful that doctors and other medical professionals would voluntarily cut their own income (even if some of it is generated by profligate spending). Most doctors I know say they are not paid enough. Their practices are like cars on a hill with the parking brake on. Looking on, you don’t realize how much force is being applied just to maintain stasis.

More here.