Taking Healthcare for Granted.

In Editorial by Edmund Kwok1 Comment

I suspect as a society, we are taking our healthcare system for granted … at least those of us in Canada. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like more and more patients we’ve seen coming into the ER are increasingly demanding, angered with unrealistic expectations, and overall ungrateful.

What used to be a rare occurrence has now become so common that I expect some variation of the following first words out of a patient’s mouth: “…finally! Can’t believe I’ve waited X hours to see a doctor! This is ridiculous!…”. Worse, the patients who are most rude are those who have waited no more than a few hours, for something that even a lay person can recognize as not being a medical emergency.

I think people forget how fortunate they are to have 24/7 access to an emergency healthcare team, whenever they want, and without ever having to worry about paying for each visit.

One only needs to cross south of the border to realize how much healthcare services can cost – check out this story that went viral on the internet when a young man posted the medical bill he received after a simple appendectomy. And sure, the U.S. is a bit of an outliner when it comes to astronomical costs for the same level of healthcare services provided elsewhere (as slickly presented here), but the U.S. is certainly not the only country out there that employs some sort of end-user fee/cost.

Would charging patients, even a nominal fee, for each ER visit make a positive difference? Would it deter “unnecessary” utilization of one of the most cost-inefficient aspects of our healthcare system (i.e. 24/7 emergency room visit), or would it simply encourage self-entitlement behaviors of paying customers (i.e. “I paid X dollars to come here, why did I have to wait”)?

Even in the world of private enterprises, as a paying customer I have to wait. I have had very little success to just simply show up at my lawyer’s, accountant’s, or mechanic’s office and expect immediate undivided attention without an appointment.

Personally, I feel very fortunate to live in a country where anyone (rich or poor) who gets really sick and needs immediate medical attention, will have access to that care without prejudice. By the very nature of logistically ensuring this tremendous privilege, waiting a few hours for a physician to assess your runny nose or tummy ache is to be expected.

To all our patients please be, um, patient, with us – we are indeed trying our very best to provide you quality care as quickly as we can. No one is playing Angry Birds and intentionally making you wait. In the few hours you are waiting, try and remember how wonderfully amazing it is to simply walk in through the doors and know that a dedicated expert medical team will be there for you…and in the aftermath we won’t be hunting you down to bankrupt you.

Edmund Kwok

Edmund Kwok

Emergency Medicine. Quality Improvement. Patient Safety. Change Management. Healthcare Administration.

Frontdoor 2 Healthcare

Frontdoor2Healthcare, founded by Dr. Edmund Kwok in 2012, provides editorial and commentary on issues affecting Canadian healthcare from the emergency department’s “front door” perspective. Frontdoor posts allow for open sharing of the diverse opinions and perspectives of emergency physicians from across the country.

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