Addressing Medication and its Relation to the Typical Modern Healthcare Experience
The average American spends approximately $1,200 a year on prescription drugs, according to health services company, SingleCare. Some have read this statistic and referenced an issue with drug makers charging exorbitant amounts of money for medications, but that’s not the only issue. There’s an unfortunate trend toward doctors and patients spending a shrinking amount of time together that I recently called attention to in my blog, “The Doctor-Patient Relationship and Your Health: It Matters”. Pressures from insurance companies and large healthcare groups to maximize efficiency and profits has cut down appointment times to less than 16 minutes per visit in more than half of reported cases. While this trend is having a negative impact on healthcare delivery in many ways, one is directly related to prescription medications.
Rushed doctor visits do not allow patients to fully express the issues they are having. A person may meet with their doctor, quickly list the most egregious symptoms they’re experiencing, and without an open doctor-patient relationship and time to perhaps uncover other more subtle, related evidence, the physician may come to an incorrect diagnosis. The result is often the prescribing of medication that does not work or does not address the underlying issues leading to the problem. Furthermore, inappropriate medications can cause issues of their own, leading to more symptoms that are then considered to need treatment, leading to an over-medicated patient who is not receiving treatment for the underlying cause of the first set of symptoms. The monetary expense associated with unnecessary prescriptions can become significant. Additionally, patients in this situation find themselves making numerous appointments to talk to their doctor in truncated timeframes while their health is not being helped at all- and could possibly be hurt- by the status quo of the vast majority of modern practices.
Building relationships and having open communication enables the doctor to deliver quality preventative care and to educate patients about ways to maximize their health. It allows the time and flexibility to have unrushed conversations that can lead to proper diagnoses, and therefore the most appropriate treatments and medications. Furthermore, when a relationship is established and the time has been spent to partner in health, efficient care when someone is unwell is more effective. The doctor already has knowledge of any conditions and/or medications that could affect the treatment of acute illnesses when they arise.
The type of doctor-patient relationship that can lead to more accurate diagnoses, better treatment, lower prescription costs and a better quality of life requires a paradigm shift in how patients look at the money they spend on medical-related products and services. Concierge medicine, also referred to as boutique medicine or direct primary care, is a type of medical practice in which patients pay a membership fee, typically annual or monthly, to essentially remove insurance companies and large healthcare practices from the relationship between them and their doctor. While the benefits of this structure are vast, an important one is that patients can speak candidly with their doctor in unrushed appointments in a setting that is most comfortable and convenient for them. The partnership formed between doctor and patient enables time to treat root causes, to properly counsel patients on options and to fully educate them on the benefits and risks of any and all medications that are prescribed to them. This ongoing partnership also allows for ongoing monitoring of symptoms and test results, so if medications should be increased, decreased, added or stopped, that can be done as quickly as possible.
The cost of medical care and prescription drugs is an important topic for patients, physicians and our country. It’s time we start looking differently at how it’s all approached.