Tired of assembly-line medicine? Don’t wait for politician-saviors. Convene with your neighbors.
Americans typically rely on elected officials to uphold the will of the people, but decades of partisan struggle have stalled meaningful health-care reform. Now physicians are leaving exam rooms to take direct action.
In 2004 I had my epiphany: “Why wait for legislation? I’m a board-certified physician. What’s stopping me from serving the public?”
From living rooms to Main Street cafes, I held town hall meetings where I invited citizens to design their ideal clinic. Bus drivers and businessmen, housewives and hippies, teachers, and kids of all ages joined together to design a new model, a template for the nation.
So What’s an Ideal Clinic?
Mimi, a mother of two, shared: “An ideal clinic is a sanctuary, a safe place, a place of wisdom where we learn to live harmlessly, listen with empathy, observe without judgement. It’s a place where a revolution starts, where we rediscover our priorities.”
Lynette, a Chinese woman, added, “No front counters separating people from people, complimentary massage while waiting, fun surgical gowns!”
Jacob, a soft-spoken young man with dreadlocks, imagined “intriguing magazines” and a “pet cat that greets people at the door.”
A shy East-Indian student, Anjali, summarized, “Most importantly, the doctor would be someone with a big heart and a great love for people and service, someone whose presence itself is enough to cheer a patient. . .”
From nine town hall meetings over six weeks, I collected one hundred pages of written testimony, adopted 90% of feedback, and opened the community clinic one month later. For the first time my job description was written by my patients, not administrators.
The Patient’s Prescription
What do Americans really want in an ideal health-care system?
1. Authentic relationships: People prefer doctors who are fully present–emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
2. Integrative healing: All medical professionals work in concert. On-site complementary therapies such as massage, yoga, and acupuncture are accessible.
3. Physician role models: Happy, healthy doctors inspire patients to live happy, healthy lives.
4. Patient-centered care: One citizen’s advice: “Abolish cookie cutter medicine—everybody does not need the same thing.”
5. Flexible financing: Offer payment options: Monthly stipends, sliding scale discounts, bartering, and accept insurance when possible.
Health Care of, by, and for the People
Tucked in a wooded residential area a few miles from my home, is a sanctuary with yoga, massage, acupuncture, and a solar-heated, wheelchair-accessible indoor pool and hot tub. Follow a covered walkway to a clinic with overstuffed chairs and fun flannel gowns where patients enjoy thirty to sixty minute appointments; those who walk or bicycle to the office are rewarded with a selection of local handmade soaps and lotions.
The community clinic operates with no grants or outside funding. Malpractice premiums are discounted 50% as I work part time. Low overhead allows this one-physician, no-staff model to pass savings onto patients. Most insurance is accepted; uninsured receive 30% off with barter options available. Claims are processed through a free online clearinghouse. Administrative tasks and non-urgent calls are handled in my home business office at my leisure.
Is this a spa specializing in the worried well? Quite the contrary. Founding this community clinic has been the most personally and academically-fulfilling adventure of my career.
Case in point: Jacob–a thin, uninsured 25 year-old male whom I met at a town hall meeting–presented for a check up on opening day with a blood pressure of 220/120. My first diagnosis of renal artery stenosis. I accompanied him to angioplasty and that evening celebrated his new blood pressure–118/80–by sneaking Jacob and his family into the radiology suite to demonstrate his life-saving procedure with his very own catheters, wires and film images which I provided as souvenirs.
Physician, Heal Thy Profession
The care Americans want and deserve can’t be legislated by bureacrats. The time is now for physicians to bypass partisan discord and enact real change. Need help? Contact me at IdealMedicalCare.org