When I was two years old, I contracted rheumatic fever. Too ill to be moved, the family doctor came to our home with his black medical bag and stayed with me all night.
Nowadays, doctors no longer make house calls, and they are not free to do what they think the patient needs. Instead, they do what insurance companies pay for. Thousands of non-medical Medicare employees oversee this process. Billions of dollars that once went directly to patient care now support a bloated Medicare bureaucracy.
When the government inserted itself into health care, it inserted itself into the middle of the doctor-patient relationship. Fifty years later, doctors are fighting back.
The rise of direct-access physicians began thirty years ago and is gaining popularity. Direct-access doctors provide services that Medicare does not pay for. This movement has many critics, who assume that this will have a negative affect on patients’ access to care.
In response, some doctors are developing novel approaches to payment. For example, some doctors recommend opening Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). HSA’s use pre-tax dollars and are an excellent way to save for medical bills not covered by insurance plans.
Another way to keep costs low is by passing along cost savings. When doctors do not have expenses associated with insurance billing, they pass those savings along to their patients. Regardless of how they approach the subject of cost containment, the overarching goal of these physicians is to spend their time proactively keeping patients healthy instead of reacting when they get sick.
A notable change in the newest generation of physicians is that, in a variety of ways, they hold patients accountable for their own health. Focusing on good health and disease prevention, their patients learn healthy behaviors like good nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management. This approach empowers patients and lowers medical costs by keeping patients healthy and out of doctors’ offices.
It will take time to restore the traditional doctor-patient relationship, but make no mistake: a change is coming to patient care. A welcome change at last.