The Nation's Health + [Heart disease]

Heart disease: I need to do more procedures!

I sat next to a cardiology colleague of mine last evening at a dinner. He was lamenting the fact that, because of changes in hospital affiliations of his several-member cardiology group, he'd seen a drop in the volume of heart catheterizations he was performing.

"I'm used to doing 5 cases a day! Now I'm down to 3 or 4 a day." He went on to tell me how he's working to increase his volume. "I'm branching out into doing carotid stents and anything I can find in the legs." He also described how he was cultivating referring physicians to send him more procedural patients.

Now, this colleague, I believe, is a hard-working, conscientious physician. But his attitude reflects the perverse logic of many physicians: I need to do more procedures, not because it benefits patients, but because that's what I want to do--to be busy, make more money, acquire more experience, build my ego, etc.

Doing more procedures has nothing to do with an altruistic goal of doing more good for society. It is purely for selfish reasons. Beware of this shockingly common, pervasive attitude. There's a proper time and place for heart procedures, or any procedure, for that matter. But feeding your doctor's ambitions is not a good reason.