August 12, 2008

Head Of The Class or Head Up Your Ass?

Piece of cake. A tiny pinch. My first ever biopsy hardly hurt. Were the cancer gods showering me with mercy? No. The doctor screwed it up. He had not plunged the needle in far enough to suck up the cancerous cells. What he thought to be a benign cyst, I six months later learned was 1 of 19 positive tumors floating around in my neck.

Doctors: Screw up your billing, screw up your taxes, but do not screw up when diagnosing my cancer. How could a doctor of his age and experience make such a mistake and why is there not a system in place to assure that doctors are still performing at the top of their game?

In the United States medical licensure sets minimum competency requirements and is a one-time event in the career of an MD. In addition to licensure, doctors can choose to become Board Certified, which necessitates completing a stringent and rigorous exam process every six to ten years depending on your specialty. Remember though, Board Certification is VOLUNTARY, and not required of doctors. It is the extra credit, the gold star on the forehead.

I think they have a better idea going on across the pond. The Brits have recently announced that every five years, ALL doctors will have to show they are competent to practice. If not, they will be disbarred. But wait there is more…as part of this five-year review, patients will also evaluate the doctors’ communications skills and how well they engage patients in treatment decisions.

Brilliant, if we had such a system in place in the U.S. perhaps we could differentiate the doctors who are the head of the class from those with their heads up their ass. Airline pilots undergo continual retesting. Shouldn’t doctors too? Until the time that we follow Britain’s lead, any time you are you searching for a doctor, find a Board Certified doctor. After all, this is your life we are talking about.

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