“His examinations were too cursory,” said the husband. “He would come in, glance at the patient, ask about the temperature, cut short or ignore any attempt to relate the history since his last visit, hurriedly put up some medicine and leave before he had been in the house five minutes”.
When surprise was expressed, the patient said, half apologetically: “Well, what could you expect? He is too busy and sees too many people. You know he charges only one dollar at the office and two dollars at the house and a great many people go to him for that reason. He is always rushed”.
She then went on to relate that she had been at his office repeatedly, always finding his waiting room full of patients, and that several times she had seen him, at the close of his office hour, leave the house to make outside visit, while several angry patients yet remained who had not been attended.
“How can anyone expect to get or give good service under such conditions?” she asked.
“I stood it a long time,” she continued, “because I liked him so much as a man. But when I found myself getting no better and gradually getting into a chronic state, I made up my mind it was time to call in someone who would take some interest in me medically and give time enough to the case to enable him to treat it properly.
“I believe Dr.________is an able physician and a well meaning man,” she continued, “but he is working under a wrong policy and does not realize it. If he would charge three times as much and see one-third as many patients they would be satisfied and he would be happier, get better results and be just as well or better off financially”.
With rare discernment this highly intelligent woman had put her finger upon one of the commonest and most virulent points of “focal infection” in the medical body. Look at the situation for a few moments.
Here is a man of genial personality, good native ability, of excellent training as a prescriber, long experience in medicine and surgery, high reputation in his community and popular among his patients, who has allowed himself to become overcrowded with work, hasty and superficial in his examinations, inaccurate in his prescribing and unsuccessful as to result-and all largely because of a bad financial policy.
It is known that this physician charges the same fees today that he did thirty years ago. The evidence goes to show that he has made little or no progress in professional skill and technical efficiency during that time-has in fact retrograded; also, that some of his patients know it.
It is reasonable to assume that under an enlightened financial policy and a consistent program based upon right ethical and financial principle, conscientiously carried out, it would have been possible for him to make substantial progress in skill and technical efficiency and become an honor to the profession. Under such conditions his services would now be worth at least five times as much as they were thirty years ago, and he not only would be justified, but would have no difficulty, in charging and collecting proportionately larger fees-provided he actually rendered the service and got the results.
Here, by the way, is about the only saving feature of this case-that he had not yielded to that particular form of greed which has led others to charge high fees while failing to give the kind and quality of service that alone justifies them. Probably his “Inward monitor” has been able to make its voice heard distinctly enough occasionally to restrain him in this respect.
It would have been better for all parties concerned if he communed with that higher and wiser self more frequently. As things are, he is charging very small fees for very poor service- in which there is a kind of consistency-but it is still open to question whether the service he gives is really worth anything. This particular patient did not consider it worth anything to her and frankly said so; and she will not fail to tell others. Who will say that she is not right?.