Healthcare Reform Pace is Dizzying, but Unavoidable

John Commins, August 1, 2012

I watched a feel-good piece on television a few weeks back about an 87-year-old family doctor from Rushville, IL (pop. 4,300) who knows his patients by their first names because he was the attending physician when most of them were born.

He charges $5 for office visits and works seven days a week.

Inside the storefront office where Russell R. Dohner, MD, has practiced family medicine since 1955, a television journalist assures us that the good doctor "still does things the old fashioned way." No appointments are necessary. After-hours emergency patients use the back door. Medical records are kept on paper and stuffed in filing cabinets. Calls are taken on a rotary telephone.  And prescriptions are sent to the pharmacy down the street.

As for a computer, Dohner says, "I never had one."   

Dr. Dohner comes across as a remarkably selfless and saintly man who has dedicated his life to the health and well being of his community. He is a Norman Rockwell painting incarnate. But the story also makes clear that Dr. Dohner is a noble anachronism. There are thousands of older country docs across the nation like Dr. Dohner, but we all know that they don't make them like that anymore.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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