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Abraham Verghese on health-law battle: "We’ve worried so much about the process, not the patient”

Abraham Verghese on health-law battle: "We’ve worried so much about the process, not the patient”

In the ongoing political struggle over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a key component – the patient – remains under-discussed, argues Abraham Verghese, MD, a professor of medicine at Stanford. Verghese recently gave a talk at the University of Denver, and his thoughts on the new law, and his call for judicious use of medical tests and procedures, and attention to bedside manner, were among the topics of discussion. Barbara Ellis of the Denver Post reported in a blog piece earlier this week:

“We’ve worried so much about the process, not the patient,” Verghese said. “If the purpose of Obamacare is to help people get health insurance; if its purpose is to not punish people with pre-existing conditions; if its purpose is to promote quality health care … then what’s so bad about it?”

“Whatever Obamacare does, it will put a premium on not ordering medical tests willy-nilly,” he said. “It will force physicians to come up with a rational idea of what to do next.”

Verghese also talked about technology and how it can improve the quality of care, so long as physicians address the patient first. “A physical exam is a ritual. Someone is telling me their intimate details, allowing themselves to be touched,” he said, according to the Post. “That’s a ritual that’s important to patient care.”

Previously: Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone: Two years as a New York Times best sellerA call for extended bedside-manner training and Can the use of devices among physicians lead to “distracted doctoring?”

2 Responses to “ Abraham Verghese on health-law battle: "We’ve worried so much about the process, not the patient” ”

  1. Judi Gustafson Says:

    That is a big “IF”, and who says the doctors will stop ordering the tests and will start EXAMINING patients? Why did they stop?

  2. George Verghese MD FRCS Says:

    Well said and true, but without the protection from any sort of malpractice reform, tests will continue to be ordered willy nilly.
    Specialist referrals may be a preferable alternative to the Primary care physician ordering MRIs and other (expensive) tests. Specialists often use tests as an ancillary to augment a clinical suspicion instead of a substitution for the same.
    Physicians (and the general public) are not opposed to the “needy” requiring assistance,(we are a kind and humane society) and the needy have received emergent care. It is the paradigm shift in covering those not covered by health care insurance and taking from those who have been prudent with their health, jobs and finances.
    Additionally the myth of the “rich doctors” continues to be perpetuated (by the media), while reimbursements to physicians have been pared down and trimmed to such ridiculous levels, that the brightest of college students are not tempted to go into medicine anymore, but into a field where the government cannot regulate their income.
    Socialized medicine has faired so poorly in Europe and Canada, that the preferred alternatives are “private health insurance”. That has lead to a two tiered system there. It is what has existed in the US and what is needed is a system of improving delivery of Health care to the needy and those without the financial resources to thrive in our society, AND with a means to provide appropriate care in an environment without the threat of malpractice litigation.


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