August 22, 2012
It’s that time of year again! Monday, we start dispensing flu shots. As the season changes, physician offices around the country gear up for the cold and flu season of 2012. Most of us start getting busier, as congested, coughing and feverish patients flock through our doors seeking relief and, hopefully, a cure.
The medical business world is unlike any other. If you are in the hardware business, you are currently stocking your shelves with snow shovels, salt for the sidewalks, and portable heaters. You are hoping for a frigid winter which will increase your sales, pay your bills, and leave you with a nice profit.
If you are in heating and air conditioning, you are selling preventative maintenance, cleaning and starting home furnaces, and hoping for a frigid winter which will bring you more business and pay your bills.
Most merchants are stocking up on winter gear, looking forward to the type of weather that causes customers to empty their shelves. If you’ve got something to sell, you want conditions to be such that it drives demand, and, with demand, allows you to sell your highest priced goods.
Doctor’s sell health, but the bulk of their profits comes from treating illness. If doctors were good businessmen and women, they would never sell a flu shot, pneumonia vaccine, or any preventative care. The profit margin on a flu shot is minuscule. The profit on a patient with Influenza is tremendous!
Imagine. Your temperature is 103 degrees. Every muscle in your body is aching. Coughing causes searing pain. You can’t stop shaking. You are lying on the table in your doc’s office; your wife is at your side. Your wife is not sick, yet. Hers won’t hit her for another three days. Your doc spends 20 minutes with you. There is a lab fee and an office visit fee. You got to your doc too late for him to effectively treat you. You will be sick for 2-3 more weeks, generating 2-3 more office visits. If you get worse, you may spend several days in the hospital, generating daily visit fees.
Your wife gets sick three days later. Your children get sick shortly thereafter. Influenza is a bonanza for a medical office. It’s better for business than a blizzard is for the merchants in your local town. Influenza pays the bills with plenty of profit to boot!
What’s the best business decision? You decide. Sell flu shots that prevent the flu, take in a minuscule amount of money and safeguard your patients health; or forget about the flu shot and go for the bonanza?
Docs are lousy businessmen. They have this crazy notion that their job is to keep you and your family safe. They promote the very shot that stops them from financially prospering. Think that’s crazy?
Here’s something more insane. Patients refuse the flu shot. “I’ve never had the flu! Why should I get a shot?” I hear it all the time. I teach patients about the flu. I tell them the flu is a killer, killing up to 30,000 people a year. I tell them the flu probably won’t kill them. It will just make them wish they had died. They may well miss 3 weeks of work. They still refuse to be vaccinated.
“I had a flu shot in 1977 and it made me sick! I don’t want one.” If you think being sore after the flu shot is sick, wait till you have the flu.
I often respond to the above false sense of security with the following analogy. I ask my patients if they have ever been rear ended by a semi at 40 mph. I point out to them that they buckle up every time they get in the car despite never being forcibly ejected through the windshield because, once struck, it’s too late to buckle up. Seatbelts save lives.
Your flu shot is your seatbelt against being struck from behind by Influenza. Influenza is a speeding semi and I guarantee that, when it hits you, you will feel like you have been catapulted through the windshield and hit the pavement hard.
Guess what. Many patients still don’t get vaccinated. Too bad for them but great for business! A sick Influenza season pays a lot of bills. Some days I wonder why I waste my time trying to keep my patients healthy.
There are many times my wife doesn’t listen to me or follow my advice. Imagine that. However, she does get her flu shot every year. Thank G-d, that’s one “I told you so” I’ll never get.