06Jun

Americans see nurses as dedicated, caring professionals who risk their health because they care about the public welfare.

Doctors, whose favorable rating is rising, are seen by a majority of the public as interested in making money as much as working for the public good.

The most recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 60% of Americans says nurses are, “Mostly interested in working for the good of the public.” Just over a third – 35% — say they are equally interested in the public good and marking money.

While doctors fare less well than nurses in public opinion, the percentage of people who see them as primarily altruistic is an about face from a 2005 survey. In that survey only 17% said they viewed doctors as “Mostly interested in working for the good of the public.” 31% saw doctors as “Mostly interested in making a profit.”

Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation says 36% of Americans see doctors as mostly interested in working for the public good. Only 10% said they thought doctors were mostly interested in money.

Drew Altman, president and CEO of the foundation, says the pandemic is changing the public perception of doctors. (The public was not asked its opinion of nurses in the 2005 survey.)

“The many knowledgeable physician-scientists on national and local TV every day talking about the pandemic may also be enhancing the image of doctors with the public,” Altman writes.

The image of all medical workers has been burnished by video of workers heading into hospitals and nursing homes to care for the seriously ill despite the risks. Reports of nurses and doctors working long hours sometimes without all the proper protective equipment prompted an outpouring of public support, demonstrated by applause and signs and food deliveries for all healthcare workers.

On the other hand, the perception of insurance and drug companies hasn’t changed since 2005. Three-quarters of the public see both industries as mostly interested in making a profit.

Altman says that the appreciation and goodwill medical professionals are receiving is helping morale and might just “get young people more interested in specialties that aren’t usually the most lucrative.”

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Hospitals Ready In Case of ‘Second Wave’ This Fall

Six months into the global coronavirus pandemic, health care experts across the US feel much better prepared to handle a potential “second wave” should it occur this fall.

“We’ve evolved. We’re in a much better state now than we were in the beginning of the pandemic,” Michael Calderwood, associate chief quality officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, told Healthcare Dive. “There’s been a lot of learning.”

In a survey reported by Healthcare Dive, healthcare executives express fewer concerns about a possible surge in patients when the usual flu season begins this fall than they do about staffing and employee burnout.

Hospital finances are by far a broader concern. When the seriousness of the pandemic became apparent the government ordered a shutdown of all but essential services hitting hospitals hard.

The cancellation of elective procedures and the dramatic reduction in other visits cost hospitals and health systems $200.6 billion, according to the American Hospital Association. That has to at least partially factor into the thinking of the 62% of survey respondents who don’t think a similar response would be appropriate again given what is now known about the virus.

Their worries about patient volumes is well-founded, said Dion Sheidy, a partner and healthcare advisory leader at KPMG.

“While we think demand will come back, we’ve seen some flattening on demand in certain aspects that may be the new indicator of the new norm in terms of how people seek care,” Sheidy said.

The rise of telehealth visits is part of that new norm, embraced by a large majority of the 100 healthcare system executives in the survey. As medical offices and many walk-in clinics closed, Medicare and health insurance providers relaxed policies and expanded their coverage of virtual doctor visits. Telehealth visits surged. Many providers saw a doubling, tripling and more of their pre-shutdown business.

The survey respondents support the regulatory loosening. In the survey, 84% support the ability to offer telehealth services to patients located in their homes and outside of designated rural areas. Previously, many insurers only reimbursed telehealth costs for patients who lived far from a doctor or medical facility.

Almost as many executives (79%) support expanding the services that may be provided by telehealth. Smaller, but still substantial percentages favor expanding the type of practitioners allowed to provide virtual care and provide insurance coverage for devices such as computers and cell phones for telehealth.

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Even Heroes Need Help

The world may be lauding healthcare workers as heroes, but the professionals themselves are exhausted, worn down physically and emotionally by their efforts to treat the sick and stem the COVID pandemic.

“The pandemic has had a terrific strain on nurses,” Dr. Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, told ABC News.

As the COVID death toll reached a half million, the network broadcast a special report on the looming mental health crisis among frontline medical professionals.

“It’s hard for us health care workers,” said respiratory therapist Kelsey Copely. “I’ve seen more deaths these past few months than I had seen in years, and it’s not normal and it takes a lot. It takes a toll on someone’s mental health.”

A 2018 study of physician suicides estimated that 300 to 400 physicians commit suicide annually. It’s too early to assess the impact of the pandemic on doctors, though the American Medical Association says stress levels have risen.

“Acute stress among physicians, which was already significant before the pandemic, has increased dramatically for many physicians during the last several months as the pandemic has brought new challenges and exceptional demands,” AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey told ABC.

Last March, as the number of hospitalizations was rising quickly and the country was heading to a shutdown, Dr. Mona Masood, a psychiatrist, began enlisting other psychiatrists to provide mental health support for doctors and medical students.

“It was very clear that physicians did not know how to reassure themselves or take care of their mental health,” Masood said.

Since last year, the free confidential support service has fielded thousands of calls from physicians and students.

“Almost all of them start off with ‘I’m so sorry for taking your time. I’m so sorry taking this resource.’ And that speaks to that implicitness of others should be taken care of before me,” Masood said in an interview just a few months after the hotline launched.

One reason more doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers don’t seek help is worries over losing their license to practice.

ABC News said many medical licensing applications probe deeply into the applicant’s mental health, even going beyond what is allowed by law. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law found that in 2018 only 18 states complied with the law about mental health questioning on physician licensing applications.

Last year, the American Medical Women’s Association (ANWA) launched the Humans Before Heroes initiative to reform licensing questions to remove the fear that by getting mental health help a professional might be denied or lose a license.

Says the AMWA, “It is critical that we remove all barriers to care-seeking so no frontline hero is left sacrificing themselves for others. Mental health treatment must be normalized and encouraged.”

Image by Darko Stojanovic

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