• Nathan Riley, MD

Toyota of Healthcare

I work at a large, business-savvy HMO headquartered on the West Coast but gradually expanding across the nation. This particular organization is often referenced as a gold standard for repeatable, effective (and profitable) healthcare that optimizes care provided to patients. From a physician standpoint, the system is becoming more automatized, which, in theory, maximizes the time physicians have to take care of patients.

Yet, as standards are implemented and retooled to meet the growing needs of our nation’s sick, the reality is that physicians have less say in how the care is actually implemented. The creativity and customization required to respond to chronic illness has gone by the wayside. As physicians, we are becoming paper pushers and automatons. We are merely a cog in the gears of the medical factory as the art of healing is gradually commodified the way of cars, coffee, and textiles.

While consistency is important to companies like Toyota, we can’t expect the same results in medicine. Some degree of standardization is important to maximize affordability, but when these standards are set by non-physicians, the confines of medical practice are stifling and crippling at best to physicians.

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