Maybe the market does work

An article from the NYTimes suggestes that physicians are managing to find time to be with patients–when the threat of losing customers is strong enough. Interesting quotes:

…doctors know that as walk-in medical offices and
retail-store clinics pose new competition, and as shrinking insurance benefits
mean patients are paying more of their own bills, family care medicine is more
than ever a consumer-service business. And it pays to keep the customer

the 119,000-member American College Of Physicians is promoting
“patient-centric care,” which it made the focus of a policy paper
this year, calling for more consumer-friendly scheduling, electronic medical
records and electronic prescriptions, among other measures.

…convenience also ranks high. That is one reason about
20,000 of the 59,000 actively practicing members of the American Academy of
Family Physicians now use electronic health records. Being highly computerized
can let doctors offer Web-based scheduling that enables patients to book their
own appointments.

…Dr. Blye said that electronic scheduling, together with
electronic medical records — a system made by GE Healthcare — enabled her staff
of two internists and two nurse practitioners to save on overhead by
eliminating one clerical employee.

… The same computerization that makes online scheduling
possible can also open the door to online consultations, which usually involve
questions that patients ask about routine matters like diet or
possible changes in the strength of a prescription drug. The patient can go
online at any convenient time, and the doctor often replies the next morning.
But because health plans only rarely pay for these e-visits, such services have
been slower to catch on.