What is the Healthcare Hamster Wheel? Why is there so much healthcare frustration?

There have been a lot of changes in health care since I started my career. Physical therapists are very lucky because we get to spend more time with our patients than almost any other specialty in healthcare. We get to talk and listen to our patients and their stories. As the years have passed, I have noticed a common theme:

HEALTH CARE FRUSTRATION

Most of our patients describe a long and winding path to physical therapy. It often sounds like this: “I started having some pain in my lower back. I have had it before, but this pain was worse, and it wasn’t going away. I knew I had to have it looked at.” At this point, the patient starts the long process to get their back pain assessed and treated. Let’s call her “Carol”. She follows a well-worn path traveled by thousands of my patients and see the typical journey that causes healthcare frustration:

  1. Carol schedules an appointment with her doctor. A week or two later, she gets an average of 10-20 minutes to talk to her doctor. Her doctor often writes a script for medication; decides to get testing; and refers Carol to a specialist. That is really all they have time for. I don’t envy their role in health care.
  2. Carol schedules an x-ray and an appointment with a specialist over the next 2-3 weeks.
  3. The Orthopedic Specialist looks at Carol’s X-ray which will only tell them if something is drastically wrong (fracture or severe disc damage). They might watch the patient move and assess some strength for a few minutes. They decide if Carol is a surgical candidate or not. Unfortunately, no actual treatment occurs because you can’t do much considering the few minutes they have left in the visit.
  4. Next, Carol schedules another appointment with her general practitioner a week later. The drugs didn’t work because they are a chemical solution to a mechanical problem. The X-rays didn’t show any serious damage. Carol’s health care frustration is building. The specialist, thankfully, didn’t think surgery was necessary for Carol at this point, but Carol is still in pain and it continues to get worse.
  5. FINALLY, months after the pain started, the Doctor might say “Maybe Physical Therapy could help?” Then Carol must find a quality physical therapist to help her. If her doctor works for a hospital system, she is told to schedule an appointment with their hospital PT department. It can take weeks to get a PT appointment because their books are constantly full from all the hospital doctors self-referring into their system. Carol didn’t want to wait so she did her research and found our office. We have a 24 -hour guaranteed appointment in our offices because we know the sooner she starts physical therapy the sooner we can actually treat her back.
  6. After an average of 3-4 months of pain, hundreds of dollars in deductible and copayments, and lots of running around, Carol gets to our office and for the first time we finally get to fully assess and TREAT her spine pain!
  7. After 4-6 weeks of physical therapy Carol is feeling great; can do everything she wants to do; and knows how to make sure the back pain never comes back.

I have started to call this whole journey “The Healthcare Hamster Wheel”. When Carol makes that first call to her Doctor, she gets on the hamster wheel: a lot of running around without getting anywhere regarding her pain. Unfortunately, no matter how fast she runs or how much money she spends, she never actually gets anywhere. Talk about FRUSTRATING!

Some Alarming Data

Below is the chart for the countries that spend the most money on healthcare. As you can see, we spend the most on healthcare, which means we are the healthiest country, right?

Healthcare spending per capita

WRONG. We don’t even rank in the top 20. According to the Bloomberg 2019 Healthiest Countries Index (seen below), we are nowhere to be found at the top of the list. Talk about healthcare frustrations! Ca

Healthiest countries in the world

What we are doing about it

For 20 years my personal mission has been to help people move and feel better. That is why I became a physical therapist. I am growing tired of so many of my patients arriving to my office after months of being worn out on the health care hamster wheel in our country. I want people to end their healthcare frustrations, get off this Health Care Hamster Wheel, and find a better way. That is why we are encouraging you to take our quiz get and come see us to get some REAL ANSWERS. It has three major benefits:

  1. We actually take time to evaluate Carol’s back pain. We will discover what is causing the pain and how to actually treat it.
  2. Carol doesn’t waste time running on the hamster wheel and not getting anywhere. She can get evaluated in 24 hours or less.
  3. Its CHEAP! No explanation needed here.  In 2022 I want to help more of my patients get off the Health Care Hamster Wheel. I want people to waste less time and money but more importantly treat the issue that is causing their pain.

Put an end to your healthcare frustration. Hop off the Hamster Wheel and join me!

Todd Robbins, Physical Therapist and owner of Robbins Rehabilitation East