Friday, July 22, 2011

Hire Human Beings, or How to Fix the Economy

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So I am on hold with the nice clinic where we have what used to be called "family doctor" but they didn't make enough money, so now he's our PCP.  This is not a horse tranquilizer. . . . So spent 7 min. on this call, 6 min. of it on hold while their hideous execrable music blared at me, ruining a Brandenburg Concerto, sometimes interrupted by ads about how wonderful this clinic is.

Why?  Did you ever think about why most medical systems use these * menus now?  Which everyone hates. Because some sales rep, or some presentation at a convention paid for by drug companies, convinced them that - .
(a) it was very cool and state-of-the-art to use technology any way you can get it.
(b) it would save them $MONEY$

And it certainly seems these days that's why they went into this field.  American doctors earn much much much more money than I ever earned at the jobs women of my generation were allowed to do.  If you want to see how inflated US physician earnings are compared to others in the world, click here.

It is my dear hope that all the women and people of color entering medical school will make the pay scale go down by sheer supply and demand - i.e. more doctors than we actually need. Although I have noticed that capitalism doesn't work as logically as we think it would.

But let's go back to the * menus (* means "obscenity deleted").  What happens when a dr. installs an elaborate $50,000 piece of technology/software to answer the phone?  He thinks it saves money - how?  By firing or not hiring a low-skill person who can basically answer the phone and make appointments.

Who did get work from this?  Educated aggressive entrepreneurs who run companies that design stuff like this, and their salespeople.  I'm guessing that the guy (man or woman) who actually designed the actual system isn't paid much. Who doesn't get money?  The one or two people this phone menu system replaced.

So, Buddhist thought leads us to our old familiar poison, greed, doesn't it?  This is the kind of thing that happens when people feel their job is to Take Care of #1, and believe they are separated from the rest of the world, so it is not their responsibility.  This is what happens when people just don't think of the result of their behavior, don't ask, What effect will this action have?

Want to fix the lagging American economy?  Hire more human beings, folks.  Stop hiring technology to replace the many who couldn't afford a college education, who need work.

Okay, I have to make another appt. now. . . . There. That one only took 2 minutes.  Their menu efficiently directed me to a human being.  There are lots of those running around the McConnell Spine and Sports Center. Lots of people taking phone calls and efficiently making appointments.  I love them, and my doctor there, who has given me his cellphone number in case I need help on a weekend. He seems to be about more than making money.

When I told the woman on the phone that I was having enhanced pain she asked, "Will you be able to get through the weekend?"  Jesus, I almost got tears in my eyes. Yes, I thought I would.  This kind of pain won't kill me.  Calling it fibromyalgia doesn't really get me anywhere - just a label for inexplicable pain in lots of places.

If you want to think Buddhist about this, think about Right Livelihood, one of the precepts, and one point of that Eight-fold Path I wrote about recently, which can help us discard our suffering.  (Along those lines, I should probably stop and meditate, which would cool my irritability here.)

Right livelihood starts with not harming, just like the Hippocratic Oath American doctors take.  Why do I even go to the clinic with the maddening menu system?  Because there are lots of things musculo-skeletal docs don't do.  Because it has the best doctors I've been able to find. And surely, having it take from 6 to 12 minutes to just make a * appointment is not enough reason to change doctors.  Is it?

Now, sigh, to make an appt with a dermatologist I will have to be totally naked in front of while she examines every square inch of my body to make sure the immunosuppressants have not yet given rise to skin cancers.  Yes. Staying alive is a full-time occupation. . . . flash:  I got a human being there. It was so easy, so nice.

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