From the outside looking in preventative care seems like a great idea. It’s always better to locate a problem before it gets out of hand, right? That may not always be the case for nurses, doctors and the patients who are being seen. Students in a nursing program may be impacted by Medicare and it’s free “wellness visits.”
Warren Wolfe from the Star Tribune, Minneapolis addresses this new concept of preventative medicine. He writes that, “The wellness screenings emerged as one of the signature benefits of the big federal health overhaul that Congress passed last year — an effort to catch problems early, keep patients healthier and cut future Medicare costs.”
“Some doctors, however, are having second thoughts. To get paid by Medicare, a physician and nurse must complete 15 steps during a 30- to 45-minute exam, including brief screenings for dementia and depression, an eye exam, a medical history and personalized health advice. They must also check weight, height and blood pressure — the only time the patient must be touched.”
While all of this sounds great on paper, Dr. Patricia Lindholm is among the doctors who are having second thoughts. “Dr. Patricia Lindholm thought it was a great idea this year when Medicare announced it would cover free annual wellness visits for older people. Lindholm thought ‘OK, finally we’re getting Medicare to cover preventive medicine, catch problems while they’re smaller and more treatable,’ … Then she started conducting a few — and quickly changed her mind…What she thought would be a full physical exam turned out to be essentially a hands-off screening that was ‘pretty worthless for most of my patients — a waste of their time and mine,’ she said.”
I’ve spent my share of time in the hospital the past four weeks as my daughter and nephew have both undergone surgery. I know that they aren’t part of this “annual wellness check for older patients” category, but the hospitals I have visited are overcrowded, the nurses are treating patients at capacity and I can’t imagine adding to this list hundreds of thousands of people who are fine and just want a free check-up. Plus, where is the government going to get all of the money to pay for these well checks? Another issue to consider is that “If doctors want to go beyond the Medicare agenda — order tests or prescribe medication, for instance — they must either ask the patient to return for a separate visit or split the bill between Medicare and the patient,” writes Wolfe.
Health care reform sounds great on paper, but financially and physically I just don’t see how it’s possible. ADN nurses in the San Francisco Bay Area have a full plate already and tax payers are squeezed dry. Should we treat the sick or treat those who are well?
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