The focus of this web site is medicine. In this blog, you’ll read about patient stories. The situations have been changed to be HIPAA compliant. You’ll also read a lot about health care policy. I may throw in posts about life lessons, computers, and will even throw in family stories once in a while. If you’re looking for articles about politics, sports, or celebrities, you’re in the wrong place – unless the topics have some relationship to medicine.
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Natalie Fuelner created a well-written article in the Bangor Daily News describing some of the tribulations many new parents go through with young children. One weekend, her toddler fell face first onto a metal patio table. Immediately, the toddler’s face is full of blood. The dad panicked. Natalie was a “trembling mess” on the inside. Their physician neighbor wasn’t available to look at the child. They didn’t want to wait two and a half hours at the urgent care center. They were both still panicking, so they went to the emergency department where they were evaluated immediately by an emergency nurse and then 10 minutes later by an emergency physician. The emergency physician evaluated the child, determined that putting stitches into the laceration on the child’s lip would be more traumatizing than letting the laceration close on its own, then gave the child a popsicle. Wait? That’s it? Suddenly their panic was gone. Then they felt embarrassment. A couple of weeks later they received a $514 bill for the services and Ms. Fuelner quipped “That was one pricey popsicle.” One innuendo from the article seems to be along the lines of a comic I once saw from Bob Vojtko. An elderly woman was pointing her finger at a doctor saying “I spent $4 in cab fare to get here, so you better find something wrong with me.” Another underlying theme in the article is that many people don’t realize the costs of providing medical care in this country. I absolutely agree that $500 is a lot of money. And based on Ms. Fuelner’s perceptions, some people may think that she got “ripped off” for the services she received. Unfortunately, in the world of $20 copays and government-mandated free birth control pills, there seems to be a pervasive belief that medical care should cost less than an appointment at a hairstylist and should definitely cost less than the newest iPhone. See a prior article on this topic from Birdstrike here. As many communities are finding, the less you pay for medical care, the less medical care you have available. A few examples are here, here, here, and here, but an internet search will undoubtedly reveal many more articles about hospitals or departments that have closed because of insufficient funding. Let’s look at what Ms. Fuelner got for her $500 … She got the convenience of immediate access to a large business providing services to the public that is open every minute of every day. That business has millions of dollars of overhead costs every year that it must pay just so that it can keep its doors open. She got immediate access to expertise from a nurse who spent tens of thousands of dollars to go through years of post graduate training and who gave up her weekend so that she could be there to care for sick and injured patients. She also got immediate access to a physician who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and went through even more post graduate training, and who also gave up his weekend so that he could be there to help sick and injured patients. Those are just the two medical professionals who cared for her child. I’m sure there were many more available in the department. I could go on and on about all of the hard-working personnel in the hospital whose services are available and who contribute behind the scenes to many patient visits – radiology, lab, surgical personnel, registration clerks, billing department, housekeeping, maintenance, cafeteria, security, IT, and many others – even administration, but hopefully you get the point. The hospital also has advanced diagnostic equipment costing millions of ...Read More »