Altruism and Greed … or Giving and Getting

Money is important to have, use well, and accumulate.  Why is that?  Why is money the standardized exchange method of the world?  It is because not every car mechanic wants a pig or two to change your water pump.  They may have gotten 3 for the transmission they did yesterday.

One of the biggest misconceptions about money is that it is just a tool.  It has specific purposes, specific jobs it can do, and ones that it is not designed to do.  Money does a great job keeping our electric bill paid, but it does not directly keep the power lines up on the poles.  It is used to buy time from people that do that, not to grab hold of the tool that actually does the work.

The absolute biggest problem money has is that it can easily become an idol.  An idol is anything that we are willing to sin to get, or sin because we didn’t get.  And sin is anything that falls short of God’s design for us.  God loathes idols of any kind, sort or pattern.  Some He is more patient with, in our estimation, but He has no tolerance for idols, at all, period.  So, guess what.  If money is one of your idols, God will take care of it for you.  If money is not one of your idols, He will take care of it for you, too.

That being said, I must say that it is very easy to compartmentalize running our business from doing our business.  Two DCs asked the same question “why are you in practice” may have the following answers: “to make money” and “to take care of people.”  Both would be right, but what is the priority?  Is your priority making money?  Is your priority helping people?

As long as you have decided what your goal is, and what you are in practice for, it will solve a lot of issues that will come up. It is one of those decisions that lay the groundwork for all following decisions. If Mary calls at 9pm and needs your immediate help with her condition, your decision about why you are in practice will directly affect your answer to her.  It may well be that regardless of your answer you will treat her, at the office, at your home, at her home.  However  how you handle the other details around that visit will vary.

You most likely will fall into the category of wanting to be in practice to take care of people and also to make money.  Most health care practitioners are in that hybrid category, and most I would say are slanted towards taking care of the patient more than making money.  What I have found is that the docs that are patient focused with the financials clearly defined are doing very very very well.  One even said to me “what economic slump?  I’ve seen more patients each year since 2007 than I did before.” And he has been in business for 30 years, and is very very busy in a small town.

This decision will also determine what you are thinking when you make care decisions.  Are you following a rote memorized care plan that is designed to maximize reimbursement based upon proven payment protocols?  Are you more interested in selling that 6, 9 or 12 month plan than in listening to what the patient has to say?  Are the numbers more important to you than the person?  If you do that without proper patient care, you will have a tidy business, but no patients to provide the income.  Where will all your financial expertise be then?

Are you so focused on trying to take care of the patient that you neglect your money obligations?  Are you purposefully (or not) ignoring the financial aspect of what you do?  Are you not ‘counting the cost’ of being in practice?  If you do that, eventually you won’t have a place to see patients.  Where will all your exceptional patient care be then?

I would dare say that if your only criteria for being in practice is money, you will fail at taking care of people.

Now the trick questions:  What is your priority?  Why are you in practice?  Why do you do what you do when you do it?

Actually, not tricky at all, but essential to nail down.  For you, for me, for our profession, and most of all, the patient.


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