Because We Care

 

I would like to apologize to anyone who might have been inconvenienced by my recent absence from the office. I’m now back at full strength and intensity.

I would also like to thank all who extended condolences, prayers and good wishes. Indeed, it has been a sobering experience dealing with my father’s illness and eventual death. The traditional mourning process continues to be cathartic and healing. It has given my siblings and me a chance to reflect on the past and evaluate our priorities.

It also gave me time to ponder our healthcare system and how it failed both my now deceased parents. I hope to use this insight to encourage reform.My parents were luckier than most. They had my sister, brother and me as advocates. And, in our system, people need such advocacy. Our system is set up such that one’s healthcare team does not interact or communicate with one another to the benefit of the patient. My siblings and I tried to serve in that role and, even with great effort, too often were stymied by the system.

A few years ago, a Cardiologist in Florida, where my dad lived until 10 months ago, told him that he should have an angiogram in order to evaluate his aortic valve for possible replacement. I took over, since I know some of the best cardiologists and surgeons in the world. I brought him up to Columbia’s non-invasive valve program for evaluation. He needed a change in his medication. He never needed the angiogram or the valve, although his insurance would have covered both. There are so many other examples, too numerous and frankly too painful to recount.

People, especially as they age, get trapped in a system that is ever-increasingly run by third parties such as Medicare and insurance companies who look at numbers rather than individuals. What is “covered” rather than what is “needed” is often what is performed.  Insurance companies often dictate which brands of medication and even the types of dental appliances should be used. 

Younger people are becoming accustomed to this barometer of healthcare.  They might never have experienced another way; where a doctor (a trusted advisor) was able to do what is best for an individual without being micromanaged.  Remember Marcus Welby and Dr. Kildaire?

One of the things I decided during the past few weeks is that I will do everything I can to fight, what I believe is, a deteriorating system.

First, I will immediately start advocating on your behalf with the rest of your healthcare team. From now on, when you come to MDH for your examination, the findings of that examination will be forwarded to you and your healthcare team members. We know that gum issues, muscle, TMJ, airway disturbances and other oral issues impact the rest of your body through inflammation, your ability to chew, get proper nutrition and even get enough air into your lungs. From now on, your physicians will be told what they should have been asking you or me all along; namely “How’s your mouth?” They will get a report similar to ones they get when they refer you to any other medical specialist from us.

Second, I will be changing the gist of the lectures I give at conferences. While I was eulogizing my father, I was supposed to be giving a lecture in Orlando about how to run a successful practice. While other dentists look to me for advice on how to run a “smooth” practice process, I am most proud of the kind of personal, individual attention and caring that we try to provide each and every person who places their trust in us.  

In the future, through my lectures, I will be advocating to other dentists for such a practice.  It’s rapidly disappearing and if those of us who appreciate its benefits don’t speak up, who will?

Third, I offer you and those you know and care for my advocacy. If you know of anyone who is having a dental issue, even if they are not our patient, please provide them with my email address. I will gladly provide them with sound advice. I just want to help people avoid issues that can cost them their hard-earned money and their health.

I will always miss my dad,  I remember him daily and am thankful for and cherish everything he and my mom continue to give me.

To everyone’s good health and wellness,

Michael