Are Doctors Being Exploited?

Leigh Page

Disclosures

February 13, 2014

In This Article

Pressured to Sell Healthcare as a Commodity

Mark Shelley, MD, a family physician from Port Allegany, Pennsylvania, decried what he calls the "commoditization" of healthcare. "The art of medicine has been turned into the business of medicine," he said. "Rather than trying to make patients functional and happy, the physician gets caught up in financial issues, such as whether Medicare will pay for a wheelchair."

Feeling unable to make an income charging for necessary services, some physicians begin charging for procedures patients don't need, he said. "Yes, you need to make money in order to see patients, but you shouldn't see patients in order to make money," Dr. Shelley said. "I know doctors who earn a lot of money and are absolutely miserable."

Howard P. Forman, MD, a radiologist and a professor at the Yale School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, has a different definition of "commoditization." To him, it is about standardizing healthcare services as part of the trend toward healthcare consumerism -- and he sees it as generally a good thing. "Someday we'll treat physician services as a commodity," he said, adding, "a commodity is basically interchangeable, like milk or gasoline, but it can also have great value, like gold or platinum."

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