What Human Doctors Can Learn From Vets
Published on July 02, 2012
I hear it all the time: “Why can’t my physician be more like my veterinarian?”
Plenty of my clients say that they wish they could get the same treatment as their pets get. And while I certainly wouldn’t want a veterinarian treating my family’s ills, as a consumer of human health care in the U.S., I absolutely get where they’re coming from.
Here are some reasons my clients cite for wanting vet-style care instead of the standard human variety:
Vets Offer More Face Time
So many physicians now schedule appointments every 10 to 15 minutes that it seems you’re being shuttled in and out in no time, leaving you in a confused blur half the time. Most veterinarians, on the other hand, schedule one appointment every half-hour to make room for potential emergencies that might come in.
Speaking of time, the average wait to see a doctor nationwide was 23 minutes in 2010 — or so physicians say. My own doctor visit wait times here in Miami are seldom under 40 minutes, except at the dentist. The average wait time for my patients is almost always under five minutes. It’s the upside to not scheduling one patient every 10 minutes.
There Are No Hidden Costs
When was the last time that your physician discussed the cost of a hospital procedure? Even if you asked, most doctors wouldn’t even know how to answer that question. All they do tend to know is how little they’re being reimbursed for it because many of the costs involve funny little line items that hospitals and outpatient facilities add to your bill. I’m not saying that the veterinary method is flawless, but when it comes to financial transparency, ours is an undeniably superior system.
There’s No Approval Process to Negotiate
The third party provider system means that you often have to suffer through a seemingly endless and frustratingly Byzantine process involving claim forms and lots of telephone time. Veterinarians, however, offer a simpler system; even our approach to pet health insurance is streamlined. The reimbursement model may not be right for everyone, but one slip of paper per event is a better way to do things. And you never have to haggle over copays!
You Get More Options
Ever tried to ask your doctor for alternatives? I have. And I’m lucky to have a general practitioner who’s so old school that she’s really accommodating in this regard. But, most of the time, what physicians say is what goes, which is why I left one doctor a few years back. Someone who thinks that I’m a difficult patient for expecting to have a say in my own health care is not for me. Veterinarians, by comparison, are really, really good at offering options — even when they’re not prompted to do so by clients. We get that not everyone treats their pets the same way — and that not everyone has the funds to treat their pets the way we’d ideally like them to.
The Social Factor
In addition to the substantial benefits of a shorter wait time, it’s undeniably more fun to sit in a vet’s waiting room talking to like-minded people about their pets than wondering what kind of ailment you could contract from the coughing person sitting next to you at your doctor’s office.
Don’t get me wrong — I still wouldn’t trade my physician for a veterinarian, and I understand the necessary complexity of human health care. But as we look to health care reforms in this country, wouldn’t it be great if physicians could take a page out of the veterinary playbook?
Check out more opinion pieces on Vetstreet.