Getting medical care is a basic human right. What’s more important to a person than their health? The United Nations has stated that medical care is a human right along with food, clothing, and housing. Despite these items being necessities for living and are not in any way considered a luxury a lot of people still suffer from hunger, homelessness, disease, and sickness. As a physician there’s not much you can do when it comes to providing housing and food to those who need it, unless you do so like every regular citizen who wants to help out.
So should you do anything to provide medical care to the people who can’t afford it? If a government does not provide that kind of service to its citizens then should physicians and people in different fields take that responsibility upon themselves? There’s the idea that by doing so you’re relieving the system from taking care of them because you’re doing it, but that’s not the best way to look at it. It’s important to realize that these people are ill and need your help. Restoring someone’s health can help them get back on their feet and improve their conditions. You can’t look for a job with a broken leg or if you’re suffering from a mental illness. Damage to one’s health can really get in their way.
There are a bunch of ways you can help out as a physician. After all one of the major reasons people become doctors is to help those in need. You can do pro bono cases, apply a sliding scale method of payment, choose to work with certain medical insurance, or find other ways to give back to the community. The important thing is to do your part and not look the other way because that’s not what doctors do.
One thing you may try is doing pro bono cases. This means that you have a fixed number of cases per month that you treat free of charge. If you’re a surgeon for instance you could choose to perform two or three free surgeries per month. This is a concept that some major law firms use to boost their image. They have their major clients and they also take a couple of pro bono cases every now and then to help those who need it and can’t afford a lawyer.
When the word gets out that you’re taking pro bono cases you’re going to receive plenty of requests. It’s important to have someone at your office filter these such as a junior doctor or an office manager with some medical knowledge. If you say you’ll do two free procedures per month then you’re definitely going to receive over ten requests from people who need your help. It’ll be important to choose the cases who need your help the most and those suffering the most. It’s also advisable that you make sure that these people really can’t afford treatment or else you’re giving free surgery to people who don’t need it at the expense of those who do.
Taking pro bono cases will really boost your reputation and you’ll get the respect of anyone who hears about it. You’re not just a doctor who collects money in his or her office and goes golfing over the weekend, but you’re someone who cares about helping people out. This will send the message that you really care about your patients and that you’re a good doctor which in turn will increase the amount of people who visit your office and become your patients. So whether or not you were looking to gain from doing pro bono cases, you will anyway.
Another way to help out is by applying a sliding scale method of payment. This means that you’re going to charge each person individually based on how much they make rather than charging everyone a fixed fee. This is guaranteed to increase the number of patients at your clinic as families of different economic classes will be visiting your office. It’s also a very fair and pragmatic way to pay for medical care. The downside to this is that your office may become too crowded with patients who don’t have much money knowing they can just pay what they can afford.
You’re also going to be getting visits from patients who require really expensive treatment or surgery that they can’t afford so you might be doing very risky procedures for very little money. In addition, people who don’t need help affording a doctor will probably drop you. They can afford medical care so they’re not benefiting from your sliding scale policy, on the contrary they might actually think it’s not fair to them. If you’re paying ten dollars for high speed internet while someone pays four dollars for that same internet you’re not really going to like it. As mentioned this policy will also most likely increase the number of people who visit your office and if you don’t put a limit to you this you may have a problem providing all of your patients with the best quality of care you can give. This is another issue that may cause your patients of a higher economic class to go see other doctors.
Coordination with the hospital your work with is going to be necessary in order to do pro bono procedures or apply your sliding scale policy. You’re going to have to inform them that for instance you won’t be receiving any payment for this surgery and that the hospital should only charge the cost of the surgical room, hospital stay, and equipment. These are things you can’t get for the patient for free unless you pay them out of your own pocket which might be taking it a little too far. If you’re head of a hospital or hold another senior position you could convince the hospital’s board to work with you when it comes to helping out those who can’t afford medical services. The hospital could also accept a few pro bono cases per month. Of course a sliding scale policy isn’t really applicable in a hospital.
Discounting your services as a physician has plenty of aspects to consider such as the impact it will have on your practice and reputation. As for reputation the impact will mostly be positive. You’re going to be the kind of doctor who helps people out and sees it as a duty. Any doctor who gains a reputation for actually caring about people automatically becomes loved in their community and may gain more patients through this reputation. Some people won’t appreciate that, however; and will look for doctors who have quieter offices that only contain other patients of their same economic class. If you’re worried about losing these kinds of patients then you’ll want to tightly regulate your pro bono cases and set a limit to them and to not let your sliding scale policy get out of hand.
The impact on your practice will mostly be positive as more people hear about your good deeds. A famous doctor is usually someone people feel like they can trust before they even get to meet him or her and that’ll definitely help your practice. You might even end up on the news or winning a humanitarian award for your services and contribution to the community.
At the end of the day it’s a doctor’s job to look after people especially those who need it most. Healthcare is fundamental and the government needs to work out a system to make sure its people receive the healthcare they need and deserve. Until that happens though the only thing that can get between a sick person and disability or death is a physician. If you turn a blind eye then what’s a sick person to do?