Healthcare or Hellcare?

The new United States healthcare system is like a zombie apocalypse; we have a protocol for the situation, but honestly, we are not ready for zombies to take over America.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands health insurance to a greater part of the American population, yet more conflicts arise for those working in healthcare. Physicians experience turmoil as surges of people gain access to healthcare. Even though granting healthcare access to more individuals is considered a huge achievement in the United States, the actual healthcare an individual receives does not necessarily benefit a person’s health due to overlooked conflicts.

Physicians are experiencing high levels of stress from the overflow of patients, the responsibility of keeping excessive amounts of patient paperwork and delivering insufficient healthcare due to time constraints. This is a situation I would like to refer to as hell-care.

With a shortage of physicians across the country, physicians are overwhelmed and stressed at work. According to United States Census Bureau of 2013, 86.6 percent of Americans now receive health insurance and the demand to seek healthcare is at stake. Clinicians are physically and mentally fatigued as they see more patients, resulting in poorer thought processes and decision making.

Bruce Landon, a professor and medical doctor at Harvard Medical School, conducted a study that shows over a third of the physicians whom participate in his survey would not go back into medicine again knowing the current situation physicians experience. While the ACA focuses on the progression of healthcare, this hell-care clearly shows signs of digression.

The ACA includes extensive patient privacy policies, which translates to more paperwork for physicians. Clinicians need to fill out unnecessary paperwork that the ACA has included in the policy, making the process of documenting a patient longer than diagnosing the patient. According to the United States House of Representatives, the ACA includes 109 new regulations that involves more patient paperwork.

In 2001, the American Medical Association explains that a physician takes about 30 minutes to an hour to fill out paperwork for each patient. Clinicians now take longer with the added patient privacy documents by the ACA. From simple to complex diagnosis and treatment, physicians have to fill the same amount of documents for each patient they see. Proper documentation is crucial, as any mistake on paperwork could result in malpractice and lawsuits against the physician. With excessive responsibilities and a full workload of seeing patients every day, the ACA has made a physician’s job a living hell.

The sharp increase of people in the healthcare system means there will be less time with a physician and more wait time to visit a physician. Massachusetts Medical Society conducted a study that shows patients visiting the emergency room more frequently to address their medical problems instead of at a physician’s office, due to delayed appointments and wait times. The healthcare system is off-balance if seeing a physician takes longer than paying a visit to the emergency room. For patients that end up going to the office, they receive less medical attention as physicians limit their time with each patient to keep up with the health care demands.

Time restriction with patients means quality-of-care turns into quantity-of-care. Clinicians who go into medicine to help and care for those in need are realizing that there is no choice but to work quickly to reach the demands of the public. The conflict arises whether visiting a physician’s office is even the best interest of a patient if they must wait for long periods of time to see a physician. Where hell-care is the next quality of care for America, joining the immortal zombie side might be the next alternative than having to deal with healthcare altogether.

Hell-care, or healthcare, in the U.S. entails a grim future. The ACA inhibits the growth of healthcare as strict regulations and unrealistic expectations chain physicians. Rising “burnout” rates among physicians, increasing paperwork for every patient and time constraints to see patients has set this nation up for failure. Expanding healthcare coverage when the nation is not prepared will create more damage than good. Just like a zombie apocalypse, the “infection” only needs to start with one person before everyone infected becomes a mindless follower. And to be honest, this “zombie apocalypse protocol” is the same emergency procedure for an earthquake.

 

Joseph Vu is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at josephtv@uci.edu.