Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Customers at the hospital or at the doc's office

In the US, we have witnessed a change of view regarding health care. We are no longer considered "patients," although that is what we have to have in order to get through the medical maze. We are now considered "customers." Meaning we are entering a business relationship when we enter the hospital or go to doctor's office. We present our credit cards or cash (quick care clinics do not take checks) and we may get two or three minutes of undivided attention for our medical problems. As customers, the motto is "let the buyer beware." But the problem is as customers we don't know the language of the seller, nor does the system seemingly allow the buyer any negotiating power. The customer is often in a powerless position of pain and fear. Sometimes the customer is a child or a baby. A child or a baby is even more powerless than an adult upon entering our health care system. Sometimes the child or baby is caught between the medical system of "knowing best" and the parent who believes they know the "best." Add to this mix, our health care system which is now powered by "business" principles. Customers, or patients as they use to be called, believe they have entered a system of care. The reality is they have entered the marketplace. But not a marketplace of choices. Your healthcare professional speaks Greek to you and has a fixed gaze upon his or her watch--you have 15 minutes. Your chart they hold, looks like a Webster's Dictionary that seems to have the answers entombed within the pages. Solutions seem fixed upon drugs, vaccinations, and surgical procedures. You may spend hours in the waiting room. In fact it has the feel of the hours you spent at the auto dealers negotiating for a car. You feel trapped by their time warp. They give you minutes but hold you for ransom in their offices for hours. A pathetic system disabling to all, encluding the health care profession.
I suppose many think that this health care bill will be enabling to all of us, "customers." Instead I fear, that it will be more of the same, only worse. If we are perceived as customers in healthcare then it would seem imperative that we have full disclosure of how the people in healthcare and their institutions receive funding. If we are customers, then we should have more choices not less. Yet the healthcare system creates a helpless customer. How can the buyer beware at the doctor's office or at the hospital, when the buyer does not understand the language nor the rules? We call it Healthcare but it is just another business.
Copyright 2009 Valerie W. McClain

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