Letters to the Editors
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Emergency physician Steven Stein recounts his 19-month ordeal in getting his name out of the Public Citizen directory, Questionable Doctors, where he was mistakenly listed ["They labeled me a 'questionable doctor'and I fought like hell to clear my name," March 20].
What caused Stein's saga to drag on so long? Was it an organizational flaw at Public Citizen? Or a personality flaw in Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group? He should have returned Stein's initial phone call and apologized to him publicly and promptly.
John Weeks, publisher-editor of a newsletter on integrative medicine, asks, "Is alternative medicine more cost-effective?" [March 20]. To answer his question, I offer the following example of a contrast in economics:
A 16-year-old boy, who had been on standard drug-based psychiatric therapy for many years and was hospitalized several times, came to me for treatment of serious depression. I gave him appropriate nutrient-based therapy, without medication, and a year later he was a straight-A student. He eventually graduated from college magna cum laude.
The total bill for the boy's last year of standard psychiatric care was $65,000, of which $12,520 came out of his mother's pocket. (The family's indemnity plan picked up the rest.)
In contrast, the total for one year of nutrient-based therapy came to $4,500. Because of the experimental nature of the treatment, however, the insurer didn't pick up any of the cost.
Thank you for showcasing several physicians who've done well by evading managed care ["Managed care holdouts: How are they doing now?" March 6].
When the first PPO came to Georgia in 1985, I advised my physician clients to shun all managed care organizations. Doctors don't understand that 90 percent of these companies would disappear if the physicians just said No. Most plans are simply "repricers" that make a living reducing physicians' fees. HMOs don't manage care; they manage cost. I hope that physicians will read this article and realize that they can still make a good living providing quality care without managed care contracts.
Shepard S. Averitt IV
Management & Consulting
I was glad that you printed FP Louise Frazee's editorial regarding her illness [" 'I think you're dying,' my doctor said," Memo from the Editor's Guest, March 6]. Her story about her physicians encouraging her, even in the face of a gloomy diagnosis, resonated with me.
My first husband and I experienced that during his ordeal with pancreatic cancer. I know the doctors felt discouraged at being unable to do more. But their care and kind words helped us persevere. Now, as a physician's wife, I understand my husband's need to spend time with patients and families in crisis, because I know what that meant to me.
Ann AllenDecatur, AL
I appreciated your article on same-day scheduling and hope other doctors will give it a try ["You mean I can see the doctor today?" March 20]. When I started a solo family practice in September 1999, I decided that my staffers would never schedule appointments more than four to six weeks in advance.
So far, I've noticed some benefits to this efficiency:
I've been able to build a significant gynecology element to my practice. Many patients come to me because they'd have to wait almost nine months to see their gynecologist.
Debbie Heck, MDMuncie, IN
You advise physicians to back up their computerized billing records, but it's equally important to remind them to periodically test their backup programs, discs, and tape drives [Practice Management, March 6].
We've encountered several situations in which medical practices backed up data religiously, only to find that the backup equipment had malfunctioned or that the data were otherwise lost. We recommend that practices test their backup equipment and software once a month. Some software vendors offer free testing.
Davis & Brandel CPAs
As an osteopathic physician, I was appalled by your pejorative use of the outdated word "osteopath," especially in an item titled "A sleazy scheme gets a doctor in trouble" [Financial Beat, March 20].
Even the AP Stylebook decries this form of the word. I'm surprised and saddened that a publication of your quality would do such an egregious thing.
Carl M. Pesta, DO
Bi-County Community Hospital
Author-researcher Thomas Stanley's view that doctors are bad investors is an old one, but it's no longer the case ["The doctor who manages his own investments has a fool for a client," March 20].
While it's true that physicians are too busy to read The Wall Street Journal and prefer to relegate that job to the professionals, many have become adept at do-it-yourself investing, thanks to a wealth of resources for self-education.
The TV in our doctors' lounge is permanently on CNBC and all eyes are glued to it at lunchtime. The availability of quality no-load growth mutual funds from reputable firms and the ease of buying stocks through the Internet have made investing relatively easy. Many of my colleagues now manage a large chunk of their own portfolios with great success, and the number is steadily increasing. As they say, "Nobody can watch your money as well as you can."
M.P. Ravindra Nathan, MDBrooksville, FL
Suzanne Duke. Letters to the Editors. Medical Economics 2000;12:16.