Quad Cities, IL/IA

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The Pursuit of the Greater Good


By Lora Felger, Health Alliance

I’ve come to the conclusion that pursuit of the greater good can require financial sacrifice, possibly some short-term pain, and definitely a little patience. Darn it.

As I write this article, the Quad Cities is wading through a historic flood of the Mississippi River. Today in particular, the people of the Quad Cities can choose a drive-thru location in either Illinois or Iowa to drop off monetary donations. What a great opportunity for fellow Quad Citizens to make a financial sacrifice to the greater good of helping our community as it recovers from this flood.

How nice of the organizers of this event to recognize the greater good of having donation drop-off sites on both sides of the Mississippi River. Why?  Because it saves many of us questioning the temporary not-so-great good of having to deal with the construction of our brand-new beautiful Interstate 74 bridge (which will serve the greater good) and with the flooding around the other two metro bridges.

My son, Scoobs, recently had to have his wisdom teeth removed. As he dramatically explained to me that the pain made him think he knew exactly how Jesus felt on the cross, I rolled my eyes and reminded him of the greater good of getting them out now versus dealing with dental problems later. Short-term pain equals long-term gain. And while Jesus is considered by Christians as the ultimate example of greater good in action, my son’s temporary pain was not nearly that Earth-changing.

I must confess to you that during a recent knee injury, my patience was tested as I pursued the greater good of getting a working leg again. In fact, I have no patience whatsoever when it comes to going to the doctor. If you must know, I’m down right cranky.

My very capable and wonderfully kind primary care provider thought it would be more efficient for me to have an MRI completed and available prior to referring me to an orthopedic specialist. Perhaps the fact that he had an extremely impatient and cranky middle-aged woman in his office demanding he simply wave his magic wand and fix me motivated him to find a solution more quickly than prudence and medical science would allow.

When my health insurance company (which happens to also be my employer) denied the preauthorization request for an MRI, I admit I was a bit ticked off. Who are they to say what my doctor can and cannot order for me?

In my mind, being told “no” was standing between me and getting my knee fixed. Well, truthfully, a team of other doctors offered a different approach. While one doctor felt like the MRI would be helpful before I saw the orthopedic specialist, the preauthorization process of best practice reviews by other doctors pointed out that maybe the specialist would be better able to decide whether such a procedure was necessary based on his or her specific skills and experience. 

The preauthorization process is like getting a second opinion from other medical professionals. It helps mitigate excessive treatments that may cause more pain and expenses than necessary. My first doctor wasn’t wrong or trying to add excessive charges to my bill. He simply made a decision—most likely based on trying to be responsive to my own impatience—that he thought might help move my diagnosis closer to a resolution. Other doctors, who see more knee injuries in their medical specialty, believed that perhaps the MRI wasn’t necessary until after the orthopedic specialist had a chance to take a look.

In my case, the orthopedic specialist determined an MRI wasn’t necessary after all. His experience in working with knees like mine led him to conclude to a high degree of certainty what needed to be done next just by looking at my X-rays. I didn’t have to incur the cost of an MRI. I didn’t have to spend some time in deep meditation and prayer preparing myself to not jump out of that very narrow little tube and run screaming down the hall. Oh, and the best part is my knee did get better, which is the greatest good of all.

If you are a statistics guru, you might find this interesting. Johns Hopkins University recently surveyed American Medical Association physician members. With a response rate of 65 percent, the physicians concluded that 15–30 percent of medical tests are unnecessary.

The moral of the story here is that many times achieving the greater good is a team effort, especially during major floods, certainly when your mother says it’s time to get those pesky wisdom teeth removed, and fortunately for all of us, when we have a health condition moving from diagnosis to treatment and finally to resolution.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of two terrific boys, a world traveler and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Like this article? Feel free to respond to Longview@HealthAlliance.org. Thanks for reading!

Sources available upon request