How Can We Provide Equal Access To Healthcare?

As we move through 2020, one of the positives that I see is the renewal of our discussion on race.  As a white woman in the suburbs, I recognize the privilege of that statement.  I recognize that, technically, this isn’t really a “renewal.”  It’s a movement that is much more visible now than it has been for many of us in the recent past.

As a physician, I have met all sorts of different folks in my career.  I also know this to be a privilege.  I have worked with families of different races, different classes, different countries of origin, different religions, different cultures, different sexualities, different genders, and beyond.  How grateful I am to talk to all different types of people, to work as a team for better health, to learn about other peoples’ life experiences.   But the recent death of George Floyd and the demonstrations that have followed have really opened my eyes to what am I DOING?

HOW am I helping?  Am I truly an advocate for equal access to healthcare or am I just practicing medicine and moving on with my day?

These are HARD questions.  I have tried to really look at myself and the community that I serve to see how I might be able to do it better.  Looking inside myself and asking how I am contributing to racial equality exposes many of my own personal biases and blind spots.  Owning a small business and putting my beliefs out in the open feels scary, and the last thing I want to do is alienate any of my neighbors, friends or patients, but I was called to medicine as a career to provide care for ALL.  I have to do my small part to equalize this huge wrong.

We know that our Black neighbors and people of color have less access to affordable healthcare.  This leads to less preventive care, less doctor visits, less trust in our medical system and, therefore, more illness.  More chronic diseases that, by the time they are diagnosed, are more severe.  When we treat illness instead of health, it ends up costing both the patient, their family, and all of us MORE – in stress, in lives lost, in hospitalizations, in acute care as well as money spent.

So how do we create access?  How can direct primary care be a part of that change?  DPC physicians by nature believe in a free market.  We believe in individual physician autonomy.  We want less insurance demands, less government demands, and less pharma demands on how we practice medicine, so that we can focus on PATIENT CARE and transparency.  Opening New South Family Medicine has given me the time, the focus, and the ability to really get to know my patients in a way I just can’t in 15 minute visits.  For that, I am grateful.  Everyone deserves to feel that security when they visit the doctor.

At the same time, I recognize the need for medical regulation.  There are excellent doctors and there are terrible doctors, just like in all fields.  So how can we, as a country, afford for every person to have access to care?  I believe that Direct Primary Care (NOT concierge) can drive the overall cost of healthcare down, while at the same time allow for equal access to care for our under and uninsured neighbors. These are not mutually exclusive.

BUT HOW?  We start with primary care access.  If we adopt a DPC model for primary care (including time spent on prevention of disease), subsidize DPC memberships for those that are unable to afford it and cover emergent, surgical and inpatient care for all, we could do this.

There are MANY FACTORS in American society that need to change in order for our Black neighbors and people of color to have equal access, and I cannot begin to name all of them. We as a society have a huge amount of work to do to correct systemic racism and policies that continue to allow the undercurrent of segregation.  I, however, am going to start here.  In this practice, in a way that will hopefully improve peoples’ lives and regain some trust in medicine.

I am asking for donations to serve as a bridge to cover people’s medications, labwork and other medical expenses.  I am asking for donations to help subsidize someone’s membership to the practice, which will be at a reduced monthly fee.  I am asking for donations to subsidize HEALTHcare, not sick care.  There are so many things that we can do to join forces for the greater good in our community, but we all have to start somewhere.

Fort Mill, this problem is bigger than we are, but in my 13 years here, I have learned that we can be a community of people supporting one another.  We should engage in that for ALL.  I need your help to start something different.  Each month, I am going to offer a scholarship to a person or family of color, but I need help!!!

I know this is a microcosm of what needs to change, but at NSFM we have to start somewhere.  I know I will fumble, I know this will be difficult, I know I will make mistakes – please tell us how to do better.  But, I KNOW it is time to step up, get out of this comfort zone, and engage in a better community.

 

Do you want to donate?  Do you have questions?   Are you a Black family or family of color that needs healthcare but can’t afford it?  Let’s work together to improve healthcare access for our community and neighbors.  Email us at info@newsouthfamilymedicine.com if you would like to become involved in our efforts.