Insurance Companies Are Eroding The Doctor-Patient Therapeutic Relationship

Studies have shown that over the last 30 years, patients have become increasingly less satisfied with the care they receive from their primary-care doctors. It is a familiar feeling—when you show up for your appointment, your doctor really doesn’t have enough time to talk with you. They brusquely rush into the exam room, rarely look up from your chart or their computer, and frequently interrupt while you are discussing your concerns. Prescription errors are also common because our doctors don’t know much about their patients. Things were much different 30 years ago, when family doctors knew patients on a more personal level. They knew how you felt about your job, your family, and your eating and drinking habits. These days, doctors are unlikely to even know their patients’ names.


Problems With the Managed Care Model

This troubling change in our healthcare system has been largely caused by insurance companies. In the 1980s and ‘90s, the healthcare industry changed fundamentally as the managed care system took root. Many insurers began focusing more on cost-saving measures at the cost of quality healthcare. They began encouraging, if not requiring, their members to seek services from within a network of approved providers. They then negotiated lower and lower fees for these approved providers, who had to fit more and more patients into a day in order to make ends meet. The result: very short appointments and decreased patient wellbeing.


Even though doctors now see more patients in a shorter span of time, most primary care providers have seen a decline in income over the last 30 years. Researchers have found that in order to treat patients effectively, a doctor should not see more than 1,800 patients. Today, the average primary-care doctor sees 2,300 patients. And at “Medicaid mills” (clinics that see less well-off patients who are covered by government Medicaid plans), a single doctor may be responsible for up to 3,000 patients.


By restricting the network of approved physicians, patients often are forced to find a new primary-care provider every time their employer switches insurance carriers or they get a new job. This further decreases the possibility that our doctors can get to know us well enough to treat us effectively.


Importance of the “Therapeutic Relationship”

Countless studies have found a link between doctor-patient communication and a patient’s sense of well-being and overall health. By making eye-contact with patients and genuinely caring about their health, doctors can convey the concern necessary to develop a therapeutic relationship. Doctors should also strive to make their patients feel more in control of their encounters during doctor’s appointments.


Unfortunately, patients have come to equate feeling cared for with being given lots of tests or prescribed many drugs and procedures. But often, taking time to listen to a patient’s concerns and get to know their communication style can go much farther in managing their health.


Policymakers and physicians are starting to take notice of these issues, and efforts to rebuild the therapeutic relationship are starting to take shape. Medical schools, which have traditionally recruited students who test well, are starting to look at students’ social skills as well. Some medical schools now even teach students how to communicate with patients. And some schools are starting to recruit a different breed of student with stronger social skills through a specialized interview process.


We Advocate For Victims of Negligent Medical Care

If you have been harmed because your physician failed to listen to your concerns, made a diagnostic error, or did not thoroughly review your medical history, we can help. The Monmouth County medical malpractice lawyers at Shebell & Shebell get maximum compensation for victims of medical malpractice. For a free consultation, call us at 732-532-2011 or contact us online today.