I’ve been doing a fair amount of travel lately, which usually ends up in administrative tasks being pushed to the side. Although I try to handle things real-time on the road, there are always things that accumulate at home.
I spent most of the weekend playing clean-up, doing such exciting things as organizing documentation for my accountant and making appointments for automotive maintenance and piano tuning. Being in a world where everyone wants to do everything online, I dread having to do business with people or organizations that insist on doing business by phone, yet have limited working hours. I also spent several hours getting information together for a financial planning session, but putting the documentation together just made me wonder if I’m ever going to be able to retire.
With all the turmoil of MACRA, MIPS, and the never-ending parade of acronyms that I’m sure will continue, I don’t have to worry about having enough business as a consultant. I probably work a little more than I want to, partly because I’m still playing catch-up with retirement planning, owing to the decade that I spent with student loan payments that prevented more than minimum savings.
I do some career counseling for pre-med students and always make sure to bring up the debt aspect for those considering careers in medicine. I’m hopeful for the future when I meet with young, idealistic go-getters who are ready to save the world. However, I find that most of them haven’t thought about all the ramifications of becoming a physician.
It’s graduation time, and thousands of recent grads are going to be packing up and heading off to medical school. Although there are more so-called “non-traditional” students in the ranks, the majority of medical school students come straight out of college. Once school starts, they’re immersed in a world that demands all their time and can wreak havoc on families, relationships, and personal well-being. Although there are safeguards now with regards to work hours and student and trainee supervision, it’s still a very difficult path for anyone to choose.
A non-medical friend came across this piece on bullying in the operating room and asked whether I had ever experienced that kind of treatment. Although it was never directed at me, I definitely witnessed it, especially in high-stakes specialties such as surgery and critical care. I did personally experience bullying that was less dramatic but no less distressing. Although those kinds of behaviors are less tolerated now than they were when I was in training, they haven’t gone away.
Organizations spend a great deal of time and money working on cultural problems. For people to do their best, they need to feel like they are part of the team and that their participation matters. They need to feel like their work is meaningful and that the people around them value and appreciate their efforts. Sometimes changing culture isn’t enough. In the case of bullying, there need to be clear policies and procedures around what is and is not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Those who break the rules need to be subject to corrective action that is applied evenly regardless of job title or political status.
When an organization aims to change its culture, it needs to do more than just pay lip service to the idea. I see a lot of groups just going through the motions, saying the right words while they take the wrong actions.
One hospital I worked with hired a vendor to deploy an electronic employee engagement platform while completely missing the point about what their employees wanted and needed to feel valued. They didn’t want to receive boilerplate e-cards – what they really wanted was meaningful feedback from their supervisors during the course of their day-to-day work. They didn’t want to hear about their “total rewards” when the organization eliminated personal days and the ability to roll over sick days from year to year. They wanted to believe that the leadership understood them and their needs.
I worry that the increasing stresses to the healthcare system will further strain employee morale as organizations are going to be asked to deliver more with resources that are already strained. For those of us straddling the tech and healthcare worlds, it’s increasingly difficult to watch tech vendors offer their employees perks such as unlimited vacation and gourmet employee catering when hospitals are cutting benefits and front-line clinical staff barely get lunch breaks. I think some of these vendors have forgotten where the money comes from – ultimately it’s all funded by you and me, whether we’re funding it as patients, payers of insurance premiums, or as taxpayers.
It’s not just IT vendors that are guilty – plenty of organizations are feeding at the healthcare trough. Even though we hear about the most egregious examples of drug markups and Medicare fraud, there are countless examples of profiteering. I recently overheard a conversation in a hospital cafeteria where a medical device sales rep was talking about his new Porsche. Although I believe everyone should have a chance to be successful and should enjoy the benefits of their hard work, bragging about it at a table within earshot of patients who might be choosing between paying for medicine and purchasing groceries is just tacky.
This is the environment that our idealistic future physicians will be faced with as they start their training. I can’t even fathom what healthcare will look like in four years when they complete medical school, let alone in seven to 10 years when they finish residencies and fellowships. Will we see mass exodus of seasoned physicians? Will we see mid-level providers and ancillary professionals delivering an increasing percentage of care? Or will physicians opt out of the new world order and go back to delivering care the old fashioned way, with direct payments from their patients?
What does your crystal ball show for the future of healthcare? Email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.