The patient crunch

Good medical care attracts all of us. Like many of our neighbors, Betsy and I moved to our community for several reasons, but the presence of two world-class academic medical centers within a few miles of each other certainly ranked as a high priority as we decided to move here more than 40 years ago.

To serve a population that is constantly growing, and aging, these medical giants have branched out from their central headquarters into our neighborhood shopping areas, and not just primary care outlets. Name your medical specialty, and you can find a satellite clinic staffed with specialists offering care in it.

Convenient in theory, but the supposed efficiency of such easy access is clouded by a few practical problems, and they are big.

We are living longer, and more of us need to see these medical care providers more often and for a greater number and variety of health issues. All of our providers are overworked, trying to squeeze in visits with too many patients in a single day. Support personnel are working their tails off trying to keep up with the demand. Everyone is stressed and exhausted.

So are we, the patients. Hard to know where to start, but let’s consider the practical need for a place to park. This past week, Betsy had appointments at a suburban satellite clinic on Monday and Wednesday. Each day, the huge parking lot was jammed. Patients and their caregivers circled the lot endlessly, searching in vain for a parking spot. Both days, I was forced to leave this lot and find a spot in a shopping district a couple of blocks away.

Once we were inside, an elevator whisked us to the third floor and delivered us to a crowded waiting room. Medical waiting rooms are appropriately named. Arrive, and prepare to wait. A lot.

So yes, demand exceeds supply. The presence of excellent medical care blesses all of us who live close to it and can use it. But the blessing remains cursed with too many of us patients for the number of care providers.

That’s the problem. What are we going to do about it?



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