In my 33 years in the Emergency Department, I have witnessed an enormous amount of changes in healthcare delivery. Some of these changes have resulted in better patient care and healthcare delivery. Many have not. As an example, consider the patient with an acute heart attack. In the early days of my practice, there was not much that could be done for this patient. Oxygen, bed rest and pain control were about the extent of medical therapeutics available. Now we have “clot-busting” drugs, better blood thinners, and acute invasive intervention if needed. Another example is the very common diagnosis of diabetes. In addition to insulin therapy, we have many oral agents to help as well as aggressive patient education, insulin pumps, dialysis and more. There are 2nd generation CT scans, MRI’s and many other wonderful advances in technology.
However, many of the changes are simply “me-to-drugs” and greatly increased documentation that allows for more charges and therefore, more profit. We have a few new drugs, but we need many more advances on this front. These changes have little to nothing to do with improved patient care and satisfaction. They simply allow the companies that control the medical industry to make more money. In addition, all the beeping noises and blinking lights attract the attention of the staff and they often forget to look at the patient to see how they are faring. In the rush to embrace new technology, often the “old” ideas of listening, touching and caring for patients is lost.
I understand that “medicine” is a business and profits are important to keep the “machine” running, but I cannot escape the feeling that patient care is being left behind in the race for the money.