stop this healthcare bill… until there is transparency… or this will get worse.
I am grieving, watching doctors leave.
I have been in my rural county, 27,000 people, for 17 years.
Doctors are leaving. Wake up, United States.
The trend when I got here was that we had 14 primary care doctors and 5 midlevels. For years, we lost one primary care doctor a year. I would grieve and it would mean more work, every year. We would get a new doctor, but often there would be a gap… I made up a game to help cope with grieving. I call it “Local Doctor Survivor”. I would bet on the next doctor to leave and also on their trajectory. One of three: nice doctor, angry doctor, doctor labeled nuts. Burn out.
But…in 2015 it jumped. Suddenly we had 3 primary care doctors and two midlevels leave. Uh-uh. One was a husband and wife, doctor and nurse practitioner. One switched to being a hospitalist. Another left. And another midlevel. By then, we still had 14 primary care doctors, but the number of midlevels, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants had risen to 12. Ok, 12 plus 14 is 26. One fifth left. That is a bad trend.
In 2016 another physicians assistant retired. One of the best. I stopped counting who was leaving. Until another doctor announced they were leaving in February 2017. One of the best. That doctor said that a 20 minute visit generates 1 hour of paperwork. If one works “full time” the quota of patients is 18 per day, 72 in the four day week, and that is 32 hours four days a week of 20 minute visits. Generating 72 additional hours paperwork. That is 104 hours a week. Unsustainable.
The 2016 salary information is out for primary care. The “median” family practice physician in the US makes $168,000. Ok. But every doctor given as an example works 60-70 hours a week. Maybe that salary is not as good as you think. Because they are quitting.
Our neurologist retired, in about 2010. I was bummed. The county north of us has 75,000 people. They had two neurologists. Both left in the last two years. The county south of us has 350,000 people. They had five neurologists. Two have left, including my current favorite. For the first time in 17 years I have a neurology referral refused: and not one, but two. Send them to the big city, says one. The other just says no.
I call ENT and he bemoans that now they are down to three in the county. Another left. Three there, one on the county north of me, great, we have 4 for 450,000 people.
I get a letter from one of the two neurosurgeons in Seattle that I like best. In 2016. He is leaving to go do medical administration in another country.
Our three counties are down three dermatologists. One sent a letter. “I am quitting on October 1, 2016, unless ICD-10 is cancelled.” ICD-10 is the new manual of diagnostic codes. It was not cancelled so that dermatologist quit. We have to code every diagnosis. ICD-9 had 14,000 codes. ICD-10 has 48,000. I am memorizing the new ones. I10 is hypertension. E11.65 is type II diabetes in poor control. I used to be able to write a prescription for diabetic supplies, lancets and glucose strips. Now I have to include the ICD-10 code on the prescription and often the pharmacy cites medicare and demands that I fax proof that I have seen the patient and that the patient does indeed need the prescription. I frankly have better use for my brain than memorizing the ICD-10 codes, but whatever.
Another clinic closed in the county north of us and our county. Then the main clinic closed in the county south of us. Within two weeks. 3500 patients needing primary care providers and refills and we can’t get old records because the rumor mill says it was a “hostile takeover”. That is, the person who owned the clinics quit paying the bills, so the electronic medical company won’t release the records. Great.
I have been absorbing about one new patient per day worked since March, but I am getting tired and will have to back off.
Meanwhile, our county hospital has been hiring specialists. Gynecology, new orthopedists, dermatology. Great, right? But currently most specialists won’t take a new patient without the patient having a primary care doctor. Why? Well, one of the new trends is that the specialist says the patient needs something but that I should order it. Yep. Had one of those yesterday. The specialist says I should order it. It’s a veteran. So I get to fill out the VA authorization paperwork with the ICD-10 codes and the CPT code for the study, fax that to the VA, call the patient and remind him to call triwest, because if the patient doesn’t call then triwest throws the authorization paperwork out. And the specialist makes more than 5 times the amount I do. Maybe I should retrain. I am a specialist: family practice, three year residency, board certified, board eligible. But….. I have little value in the United States.
We are seeing Veterans in spite of the extra paperwork. Triwest is sending us 5 from Whidby Island. They have to take a ferry to see me. Because no one on Whidby is taking veterans. My receptionist complains to triwest about all the doctors leaving the Olympic Peninsula.
“No,” says the triwest person. “Not just the Olympic Peninsula. The whole west coast of the US.”