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Monday
Dec072009

Are the best medical spas making the most money?

Is you're medical spa providing the best medical care or just making the most money? Are they mutually exclusive?

There's a New Yorker article detailing the commencement address Atul Gawande Atul Gawande delivered this commencement address, titled “Money,” to the graduates of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. It expands on the themes he touched on in his recent article about health-care costs in McAllen, Texas, which figured in President Obama’s speech on health care.

The text of this speech is available in this article in the New Yorker:

No one talks to you about money in medical school, or how decisions are really made. That may be because we’ve not thought carefully about what we really believe about money and how decisions should be made. But as you look across the spectrum of health care in the United States—across the almost threefold difference in the costs of care—you come to realize that we are witnessing a battle for the soul of American medicine. And as you become doctors today, I want you to know that you are our hope for how this battle will play out.

Kevin MD has this on: Can doctors resist the lure of money?

That’s a tall order for many American physicians.

In his speech, which is an extension of his celebrated New Yorker piece, he looks at so-called “positive deviants,” or doctors who practice higher value, higher quality care, than everyone else.

What makes these doctors so special? In essence, they have to “resist the tendency built into every financial incentive in our system to see patients as a revenue stream.”

Indeed, “These are not the doctors who instruct their secretary to have patients calling with follow-up questions schedule an office visit because insurers don’t pay for phone calls. These are not the doctors who direct patients to their side-business doing Botox injections for cash or to the imaging center that they own. They do not focus, the way business people do, on maximizing their high-margin work and minimizing their low-margin work.”

Unfortunately, most American doctors fail to resist the allure of money. In some cases, it’s greed. But in many others, patients and business have to be intertwined simply to keep the doors open. Doctors cannot practice quality medicine while bankrupt.

Changing physician behavior needs to be accompanied by fundamentally modifying the incentives that influence doctors. Without radical physician payment reform, Dr. Gawande can implore future doctors to fight the financial incentives all he wants, but most will realize that resistance alone will be futile.

So where does that leave us? Are plastic surgeons and medical spas practicing medicine first, or business? How, if ever, does cosmetic medicine differ from 'real' medicine? Is there any ethical guideline that applies or is cosmetic medicine fundimentally different?

Reader Comments (2)

I'd argue that the best plastic surgeons or derms probably do make the most money, and charge the most. I've heard griping for ages from my lower income breatheren for years, but we keep score with dollars. By that score, the surgeons that make the most money win.

Hello Cutter MD, (Long time, no post)
I think you're being slightly unfair. You may be correct with your statement if you're looking at dollars as being your end goal, but I'd postulate that you'd find a better metric to be 'satisfaction' and 'fulfillment' as the measuring stick for how to keep score. Somewhat nebulous I know, but also softer than judging your life by your bank account. I'd like to think that there's still a silver lining. Perhaps I'm just a romantic.

12.12 | Unregistered CommenterDermgal

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