Doctors often struggle for the right thing to say when notifying survivors about the unexpected death of a loved one. And quite often that struggle is apparent.
Kenneth Iserson, M.D., has collected some of the wrong things to say in Grave Words (Galen Press), a new book intended to help caregivers do a better job of breaking the bad news.
Not all the insensitive remarks included in the publication were spoken by doctors: Nurses, clergy, friends and relatives uttered some. But Iserson says all were culled from real-life responses. No doubt they were trying to be nice, he says, but they just didn't think it through.
Among the list of comments Iserson suggests caregivers best avoid:
- "At least you're young enough to remarry."
- "You can always find someone worse off than yourself."
- "Only the good die young."
- "It's too bad you're not pregnant."
- "Death happens. Get over it."
Consider a session at the meeting of the Alliance for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing in Chicago last month. The topic was "Improving Revenue Opportunities: Capturing the Growing Out-of-Pocket Consumer Market." One breakout group explored "the retail cancer market and the revenue opportunities it presents for providers." The promotional material promised participants "will understand the typical retail needs of the cancer patient and explore in-depth the franchise opportunity of Image Recovery Centers."
The workshop also gave attendees information on how to "use the physical exam to add more value and increase physician revenue." In other words, how to get people who call on their doctors for help to fork over more money.
Have physician compensation and reimbursements finally reached the level where docs have no choice but to view patients as potential cash cows?
Pre-pre med. Used to be that young people considering a career in medicine followed a premed track in college and, if they had the time, volunteered at a hospital to get a hands-on feel for healthcare.
Today, they have another option: For close to $1,000, they can attend a weeklong seminar that covers everything from getting into medical school to medical career options.
The January 2000 program, sponsored by the Cornell University School of Continuing Education, was designed to give participants a real-world peek --good and bad--at life as a physician."Many people who are currently making the great effort and investment to become doctors may be heading for a role and a way of life that are fundamentally different from what they expect and desire," says Stephen Scheidt, M.D., program director.
That little bit of knowledge, however, may not be in the best interest of med schools that want a larger pool of prospects to pull from. Among the program topics is a session on physician compensation and "the uneasy relationship between healthcare professionals and insurance companies."
Koop's oops. The reign of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., as Internet king is likely on the wane. Koop, who heads the immensely popular and lucrative health-information Web site drkoop.com, has weathered a blast of criticism for failing to disclose the financial arrangement he'd made with site advertisers. In a front page New York Times article last month, he was lambasted for neglecting to inform users of his Web site that--for a time--he was collecting a commission from products sold there. He had stopped taking commissions before the Times' article was published.
A few days after the article appeared, a "special message" from Koop appeared on the site declaring that drkoop.com endorses the media's investigation into the credibility of healthcare Web sites. He went on to say that "providing information to the world is expensive, and we have to have a company able to raise the money to make sure that consumers have the information they need."
Hmm. Apparently so. The value of Dr. Kash, er, we mean, Koop's shares following the Web site's public offering was estimated to be $47 million.