The Medical Insider: Are We Too Impatient to Wait for Care?

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Spend time in a busy emergency room and you’ll hear a recurrent theme among the harried staff: patients in the U.S. want their health care like they want their food — served up speedily and made “your way.” It’s a phenomenon known as McDonald’s medicine, and it’s likely exacerbating overcrowding in the country’s ERs and leading to unnecessary care.

But as Dr. Zachary F. Meisel and Dr. Jesse M. Pines write in this week’s “Medical Insider” column, the problem isn’t entirely the fault of impatient patients. They write:

Perhaps the root problem isn’t Americans’ impatience for care, but the fact that many are stuck navigating a system that has done a poor job making sense of time and health. The current system for many people (depending on who their doctor or their insurer may be) is not really set up to help triage acute medical-care needs.

In other words, doctors are pretty good at understanding the difference between severe and urgent conditions — cancer is severe, for example, and may even kill you, but it probably doesn’t need to be treated urgently in the ER — but they’re not so good at disseminating that information to patients.

Question is, If they did, would it help Americans wait for care and avoid unnecessary treatments? For more, read on here.

And check back next Wednesday for the next installment of the “Medical Insider.”