Letters: Readers comment on Medical Economics stories

August 10, 2011

Letters discuss writing kind notes, working "part time," and the justice system here and abroad.

Heartfelt letters

I greatly appreciate Dr. Natalie Mariano's well-written and heartfelt article ("Last impressions," May 10 issue).

As physicians, we can get cynical and distant at times, but as human beings, we share in each others' joys and pains, and what better way to express it than in a letter.

Patient care is not a part-time job

I loved this article ("What doctors are truly worth," [by Sharon N. Farber, MD], June 25 issue). What a relief to have it all spelled out in such a humorous and straightforward manner. Not only is it frustrating when patients want me to spend 30 minutes on the phone explaining their results because they balk at a $20 copay, I spend much of my time explaining to friends and family that patient care doesn't fit into a regular schedule.

I have chosen to work "part time" (3 days a week), but once you add in all the time I spend staying late for urgent appointments, doing paperwork, calling patients, reviewing results, etc., I am working more than 40 hours. Only in medicine is this considered part time.

Friends and family have trouble understanding that I actually work 5 to 6 days a week and can receive texts or calls from my office any day of the week. They expect that I put in my 24 hours a week and spend the rest of the time keeping house, caring for my child, playing bridge, watching soaps, and eating bonbons. They also don't understand why I balk at paying $12 for a play date; after all, I'm a doctor, right? But as the sole income for my family of three and student loans as big as my mortgage, I'm certainly not in it for the money.

I am passionate about my work with patients and wouldn't consider any other career, but it's high time society at large understood the value of what we do.

ROBIN DICKINSON, MD
Conifer, Colorado

'Defensive' medical care

The article by Dr. Jack Birnbaum was interesting ("Don't reform malpractice suits: End them," May 10 issue).

I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively throughout Europe and observed various countries' care systems, where they have "socialized" medicine, so patients are accustomed to waiting.

And there is a different system in Europe to resolve disputes over "malpractice" concerns. If one is supposed to have had an adverse result, then he or she appeals before a panel of three noninvolved physicians who judge the appropriateness of care-no lawyers!

If care followed appropriate standards, then no award is rendered and the patient is sent on his or her way. If a breach occurred, then an award is rendered and the patient picks up the full amount on his or her way out-no legal fees to be shared with lawyers.

The Europeans seem to like the way the system works.

After observing the way our jury system works in this country-for example, the O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony trials-what fool would trust his or her life and welfare to jurists who may not even have an educated background? Or to money-hungry lawyers who profit from large, probably inappropriate, settlements?

We all pay for defensive medical care. As long as we have legislators who are lawyers, don't expect a change in the economics of our system.

JON SCHRINER, DO, FACSM
Flushing, Michigan

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