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Physicians are increasingly being squished. As reimbursement rates decrease or remain stagnant, many people think the solution is to see more patients. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t work in medicine. Those who tend to see patients as consumers seem to also be the same ones who think rushing patients in and out of the office to increase numbers is the answer.
Here are six reasons why seeing more patients is not the solution:
Patients are living longer with more chronic and complicated diseases.
They need more time with physicians and other healthcare providers than ever before. Patients usually have more diseases to monitor and potential complications to watch out for. Additionally, patients are often on more medications, and physicians need more time to discuss potential side effects and interactions. Shortening visits even further means more patients leave the exam room with questions unanswered and conditions undetected. This takes more time down the road. And it sets up the stage for missed diagnoses and unnecessary complications.
When we see more patients, we have less time to document, and we are already struggling against an ever-increasing charting burden. We need to report certain metrics to meet MIPS/MACRA requirements. We can’t see more patients and record more data at the same time.
Patients are more educated.
Patients often conduct their own internet research on Dr. Google before they come to see us. This does not save time in most cases. Rather, patients come in with many questions that need answers. If we address their concerns up front, they don’t need to call back with additional questions that weren’t answered at the time of their visit or return to have us look at something that was left unexamined.
More patients equal less time to answer all of patients’ concerns in one visit.
Some doctors now limit the number of problems patients can discuss at one visit. I am a family doctor, and often patients may have many disparate concerns that end up being related. For example, a patient may be concerned about why she is so tired and why her legs are swelling. Those are two concerns. However, if we listen to all her concerns, she may also tell us that her hair is falling out and she has trouble swallowing. These added concerns lead me to make the diagnosis of hypothyroidism.