Blog | Friday, September 12, 2008

Do we need a talking cure?

The New York Times has just launched a new blog, "Doctors and Patients Start Talking," with the goal of healing the confidence and communication gap between physicians and patients. It's a laudable objective that has attracted a lot of web traffic, and maybe I'm being too cynical, but I don't see how airing more complaints from both sides (patients and docs) is going to fix a problem whose causes are systemic.

A new article on Slate gets at this issue, by pointing out that the cause of ER overcrowding is not illogical misuse of the emergency room. Rather, people are using it for non-emergent problems because it is, for them, under the current system, the most efficient and cost-effective way to get care. The authors rightly conclude that structural changes are in order, although they, too, make some odd suggestions of individual solutions to the problem ("Next time you call the dermatologist and they say, 'We'll see you next summer,' you could cry foul." Good luck with that!).

What do you think? Are there things that you'd like to tell all patients that would improve overall health care? And do they have any complaints that you haven't already heard?