Today I ended up calling a friend of mine who I've known since we were both ten. I think in really long friendships there are times when you talk more than others, and we've been friends for three decades. We hadn't really talked much this summer.
The conversation turned to health care, partially because it's rare for me to have a conversation lately that doesn't, but also because my friend is a nurse. I think that's part of the reason I haven't really sat down to talk to her about health care reform before today. It's her livelihood, and I wasn't sure how to approach the subject with her.
We hadn't been talking long before she told me she likes my blog, particularly the posts about health care reform. That was a huge relief, and opened the door on a long conversation.
It was really fascinating to talk to someone working in the current health care system. I don't really want to get into too many details of my friend's work, because we were speaking candidly about problems within the health care system. Since it is her livelihood, I wouldn't want anything we talked about to have a negative impact upon her.
I do wish that wasn't the case, that people within the industry could speak openly, but if you work within the current system, suggesting that it needs to be changed can be perilous.
We talked about patient loads, and scheduling difficulties. The impact of red tape, and how managing health care is currently treated like managing manufacturing. We also talked about care she's received, and the burden upon the patient to keep track of all health care options. That's not quite the same as being an informed patient, by the way. We were talking about the fact that there came a point in the treatment of a chronic problem, that she found herself researching something her doctor had never suggested, or rather that had been suggested, but a nearby resource never being brought up by the doctor. She changed the scope of her treatment when she discovered this, by herself.
I wish that more health care providers could contribute to this debate, without fear of repercussion.
In the town hall meetings we've had so few health care workers contributing on either side but when I asked my friend, "Do we need a reform, or a full scale restructuring?" she answered that we need restructuring.
I was again thinking about what happened to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel in his own support of reform. This debate has become so heated, we aren't hearing from care providers. It seems that really, these people would be excellent sources of information about what really isn't working, what is, and what needs to practically be reinvented.
It's a pity that these discussions tend to happen privately because of fear of public reprisal. Since this all began, I've been thinking about health care reform every single day, and well into many of the nights.
I've talked about it here, and elsewhere, but somehow, that was the first exchange I had with someone currently in the field. After I hung up I realized something. Everyday I sort through news pieces. There have been days where aside from doing household chores, this has been all I think about. In between chores I hop on the internet, I read blogs, every article I can find. If I think about something else for four hours at a stretch, that's incredibly rare.
I realized after I hung up the phone, that I can count on the fingers of one hand, pieces I've read from doctors, nurses, medical administrators.
Aren't these the people we need to hear from, and at length?