Healthcare Providers Must Focus on the Patient's Best Interest
Facing a medical emergency, it can be tough to make decisions about what, and where, is the best medical care. Healthcare providers – from doctors and nurses to case managers and medical transport providers – should do what is in the patient’s true best interest, regardless of the provider’s own financial interests. Sometimes that means flying the patient thousands of miles to a specialized facility, or to be closer to family. Sometimes it means staying put. Sometimes it means referring the patient to a different provider.
Ultimately, of course, medical decisions are the patient’s to make. But patients rely on their healthcare providers to give them unbiased, fact-based information about what is likely the best medical option.
Yet I hear story after story of unsuspecting patients and family members being surprised by medical transport bills that run into the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. “But the doctor told me it was what I needed!” is usually the patient’s response.
If an air ambulance transfer to a specialized facility is indeed medically necessary – the patient’s health depends on it – then it makes sense the transfer is the right choice. But what about when the transfer isn’t medically necessary, when the patient’s health doesn’t depend on moving to another location? That is, of course, the point where insurance companies typically raise their claim denial flags. It’s also the point where patients start to ask, justifiably, questions about the advice they were given.
Some healthcare providers allow their financial interest in the patient to get in the way of recommending what is in the best interest of the patient. I don’t know the specifics of the situations I hear about in the news, but when I read that a doctor at a far-away facility told the patient he could die if he didn’t come to that specialized facility – that she was the only doctor in the area who could give him the care he needed (despite the fact that doctors at the local facility say they had the expertise to provide the patient with the right care) – it seems, on the surface anyway, unconscionable.
So here’s a contrasting story: Earlier this year MedFlight911 got a call from a man who needed an air ambulance from his hometown hospital to a specialized medical facility a thousand miles away. He couldn’t afford to pay for the air ambulance out of pocket. I worked tirelessly for several days liaising between the patient and his health insurance company.
I was out to dinner with my wife and kids when I got the great-news call that the patient’s insurance had decided to cover the flight…with another medical transport provider.
When the patient asked why I wasn’t upset that MedFlight911 didn’t get the contract – that we had put in so many hours of hard work and didn’t get the compensated in the end – I replied that it was always our intention to find the best possible solution for the patient, whether that was with MedFlight911 or not.