Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The medical profession-have we been divided and conquered?

Thoughts plucked for the insightful editorial ( for which I do not seem able to set up a hyper-link) by Dr. Philip R. Alper (Internal Medical World Report, November 2005) makes me think we have been divided by the power of managed care and the self-interested economic activities of hospitals.Somewhere in the mixture the hospitalist movement may also serve to divide and conquer even if that may be an unintended consequence.
The disruption of the traditional and customary lines of referral occurred early in the managed care era. It became too routine to refer to physicians not because you thought they were the best for your patient but because they were on the patient's insurance plan.Dr. Alper speaks of the growing divide between physician who practice at hospitals and those who are just on the staff. As hospitalists and intensivists grow in number so do the IM and FP docs who do not even go to hospitals except often enough at staff meetings to maintain privileges. He discusses growing tension between those specialists, such as orthopedists, who must be on call at the ER and the docs who-after hours and often during hours-send their patients to the ER and never see them there or later in the hospital.He talks about hospitals who advertise the purported advantages of certain operative procedures by some of its staff surgeons while other surgeons on staff who do not do that particular procedure fume.His theme was in part that all of this and more have lead to a major decrement in the collegiality of physicians. He believes one manifestation of this is the loss of previously almost universal practice of giving professional courtesy. Previously Dr. Alper has written that HCFA and insurance companies have poisoned the relationship between physicians and patients, now he posits that those and other forces seem to be poisoning the relationship between physicians.

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