Friday, October 3, 2008

More Efficient Doctors = Bad For More Vulnerable Populations

As first year med students, we have a class called Doctor, Patient, and Society. The main goal of this class is to discuss social and ethical issues facing doctors and what their role is with their patient, in a community, and in society at large.

The other day we were talking about vulnerable populations. The focus of the lecture was a discussion about sub groups of patients that are more general than an average patient. Examples are immigrants, poor patients, and children.

An interesting issue that was brought up was that the government is demanding doctors see more patients per hour than before. On the surface, this seems like a decent idea because Canada is facing a doctor shortage; thus, getting each existing doctor to see more patients helps reduce this problem. However, making doctors see more patients per hour turns out to have negative consequences for immigrant populations. Immigrants, who don't speak english fluently, have a much harder time communicating with their physician. Thus, it takes much longer for a doctor to see an immigrant for a regular visit. In order for doctor's to see more patients in a shorter period of time, they need to see patients who can present their problems quickly. That kind of patient is usually a person who is well educated and fluent in english.

In order to help the majority, the minorities suffer. It's unfortunate that sometimes vulnerable populations just become more vulnerable, even when we are trying to help.

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