Unfortunately, there is a lot of medical malpractice in our health care system. Usually, it is not the fault of individual practitioners but the fault of the system dropping the ball during handoffs of the patient from one service to another. For sure, there are bad surgeons and poorly trained ER docs, and mistakes made. But, most often, in the handoff of a patient from doctor to nurse to different hospital floor to different service results in key information being missed or lost. There is a New York Times article detailing that doctors have turned to labor unions to try to fight off their ever increasing workload. A higher physician workload has repeatedly been shown to result in poorer health outcomes for patients. It’s really not in dispute. These studies follow on studies showing that less sleep for doctors also results in poorer outcomes.
Now what has triggered the turn to union organizing is that healthcare institutions have sought to increase efficiency at the cost of the doctors’ workloads. For years the institutions tried physician extenders like PA’s and NP’s, which I suggest you avoid. Then, when that did not help enough, the institutions piled more work on the doctors. Then, during pandemic, a lot of docs simply retired or moved out of clinical care. Those who are left are getting crushed with the volume. Your average radiologist is asked to ready nearly 30% more films now compared to a decade ago. Your average primary care doc is seeing 30 patients a day. It is getting to be too much. The inevitable outcome is poorer care.
The doctors are getting burned out and using unions to fight back. It’s an interesting turn of events. Perhaps nursing home nurses will take notice and make their way to unions next.
All this efficiency is great if it improves things. It’s not so great if people are dying as a result.