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Sorta Random Sunday: Choosing People Over Profits in Medicine

I’ll start this out by saying that I am stealing the concept of people over profits in medicine from Jimmy Turner. I’m sure he wasn’t the first one to coin this phrase. But he talks about it extensively in his book (which I love and recommend).

And the idea has stuck with me ever since. So much so that I often find myself thinking about it in my own personal and professional life.

people over profits

I think the reason it resonates so much is because it just makes sense. And it’s an idea that I feel has always lived formless and nameless in the back of my mind. Until I heard the phrase “people over profits,” then it started to take shape.

Why does people over profits make sense?

I think it comes back to a core “we over me” philosophy.

We see it in all industries and walks of life. The musical groups that stay together versus those that fall apart. The sports team with a ton of talent that can’t put the pieces together versus the one with less talent that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Successful versus failed businesses.

And medicine is no different.

How does people over profits work in medicine?

It works in any number of ways. But I think by broad strokes, there are a few categories where medicine can improve.

1. Administration

This is an easy target. But for good reasons.

Profits for healthcare systems continue to rise. And often the way that this happens is by cutting costs more than increasing income. This means reducing services, cutting pay to employees ranging from clerical staff to physicians, as well as lack of updates to equipment and systems.

A focus instead on providing the best care rather than the highest profit though makes a lot more sense. Better care leads to more patients and happier patients. And improved profits are right around the corner.

2. Insurance

Well…this largely falls into the same argument as above. But to an even greater degree. Honestly, I think this is the bigger target.

Insurance is a middleman looking to increase their profits and doing so puts the squeeze on patients below them and hospital/healthcare systems above them.

3. Doctors

I think we need to be introspective here. Because doctors can certainly be part of the problem as well. We all want to be fairly compensated. Myself included. And I get that this may even sound a bit disingenuous coming from someone working in a top paying medical field.

However, I think we have all seen doctor groups that work well and provide optimal care. Versus those that don’t.

And a common factor is that those that work put people over profits, they put “me over we.” And in this sense, I will include ego in the “profits” that doctors often look for.

The problem

The problem here stems from the rampant burnout that doctors, including myself, experience or have experienced.

To make the burnout seem worth it or as a solution to get out, we seek more money. And most often we are just seeking fair compensation.

But in reality, what we really want and need is financial freedom. And while income does play a role there, there are a number of other arguably more important factors as I discuss here.

In fact, once we reach financial freedom or put ourselves on the path to financial freedom, it becomes a lot easier to put people over profits in medicine. And it also becomes a lot easier to start working to change the broken system.

These are just my thoughts

It is certainly not a fully developed diagnosis or solution by any means.

It’s a start to a conversation. One that I have been having in my head for a long time and wanted to share.

So let me know what your experience is! What do you see as the problem? And how can we start to fix it?

And if you are looking to improve your own financial well-being while you work to better the system, here are some great places to start!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    1 thought on “Sorta Random Sunday: Choosing People Over Profits in Medicine”

    1. Great column!

      I thought, though, that insurance companies under ACA need to spend out 80% of their annual premiums in expenses. So isn’t their profit already kind of regulated like a utility.


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