With all the hubbub about health care, especially the PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute study on how much money is wasted — $1.2 trillion each year — I started thinking about the future of health care and ways to rein in useless spending.
I recently ran out of allergy medication, so Walgreens called my doctor to get my refill. I agreed, but the next day, I found out my doctor refused to refill it, and soon after I got a call from one of his nurses telling me the doctor wanted to see me in his office before refilling it.
Why? What sense does that make? It's not as if my allergies have been suddenly cured and I no longer need that medication, so why force me to pay a $20 co-pay and charge my insurance company roughly $200 for a five-minute visit? Is this visit supposed to benefit my health and general well-being, or is it to pay staff and bills?
This led me to look specifically at doctors and how much people use them. Of course doctors will never be obsolete. The human body is far too complex to not have people who study it at length and in depth, but I believe their place in society is changing with the evolution of technology by leaps and bounds.
There is a supposed shortage of primary care physicians in America, but I think that is a result of doctors becoming unnecessary. With the wealth of information on the Internet, someone can literally learn more about their illness than their family doctor knows. Web sites like WebMD, Health Central, Centers for Disease Control, Merck Medical Library, etc. are available for people to get up-to-date and comprehensive medical information on thousands of diseases and disorders.
Most physicians feel like they have to specialize in order to make money, and it's sadly true. The financial investment required to become a doctor is staggering, but so are the salaries if a student chooses a specialty, and therein lies the problem.
Doctors don't become doctors just because they want to help people. I'm not trying to pick on doctors, but this is a fact that seems to be true for many service professions including lawyers, accountants, financial planners, dentists, etc. People pursue these jobs for the paycheck without thinking that the foundation of these jobs is helping people.
I personally love going to see my doctor. He's an apparent victim of being too good at his job. I love making an appointment for 3 p.m. and waiting for 45 minutes before getting a room, and another 30 before being seen by a doctor who stands up and starts shiftily working his way toward the door after about 3 minutes of talking to me.
I just get an inferiority complex whenever I talk to doctors, probably because of their usually massive superiority complex. I get it, you know way more than I do.
Congratulations! It's through this knowledge that doctors have the power to be a tremendous help to people, but instead they seem to get a kick out of withholding as much information as possible.
Not only do doctors seem to purposely provide the shortest possible answers to questions, but I've even had a doctor suggest that I go research something on the internet. Thanks for all the help, Doc!
Perhaps it's our responsibility to take more of an interest in our health and not be afraid to attempt self-treatments or home remedies. We should believe in what our bodies tell us and try to improve our own situations rather than relying on health care to treat things like allergies, obesity, asthma, diabetes, intestinal troubles, etc. that can be controlled perfectly well by an educated and diligent person taking practical steps toward better health and using over-the--counter medications.
In another attempt at self-treatment, I had walking pneumonia. I'd had it before, so I called the doctor's office and said, ""I have pneumonia."" Next thing I know, my antibiotics are ready at the pharmacy — no appointment needed, and no wasted time or money.
I may be young, but I can recognize when I have strep, pneumonia, pink eye, the flu, infections, food poisoning or stomach bugs, and the steps I can take to treat myself without an unnecessary trip to the doctor. I also understand when a trip to urgent care might be in order.
While specialists will always be necessary and offer medical students the best opportunities to make a living, self treatment is going to be an important part of health care in the future and offer an alternative to general practitioners who are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
— Christopher Ward is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.