We need to talk.....about fees.....
My first blog entry for a year, or over a year and its an awkward one. It's one that we need to discuss and one which I know frustrates a lot of my peers in the profession.
Every couple of weeks or thereabouts I deliver a short talk to various community groups about podiatry, how it has changed and how it might differ from a pre-existing perception. Its fair to say that the feedback from the talks, which are generally to church guilds and woman institute groups, is good. They find it interesting and educational and perhaps even a little tiny bit entertaining. I demonstrate to them how things have changed and that podiatry has moved on. I show them some of the modalities at our disposal and the investment that a modern, forward thinking podiatrist will make. Shockwave therapy and ultrasound for example represent significant financial investment in order to bring services to the client or patient group. To frame that more clearly, a reasonable diagnostic ultrasound machine will set you back in the region of about £25, 000 and a decent patient chair to sit on.... anywhere between 2 - 5 thousand pounds.
It wasn't until I read a facebook post a few days ago where someone talked about going to see a podiatrist for her heel pain which was so bad she could 'barely walk'. She went on to say.....'but its £36 for a 30 minute appointment and insoles on top of that at £45......that's pretty expensive".
Of course 'expense' is a subjective thing. But therein lies the real problem. Its not the price, or the expense of an item or service. Whats is wrong with this statement is that the lady completely misunderstands the difference between 'price' and 'value'. What is the cost of pain relief in any case? What is the limit that a person is prepared to pay? And scratching further beneath the surface, what price do we place on the skill of the clinician. And now, were getting down to brass tax.
Think for a moment, if you will, about your washing machine at home, just as an example. It breaks down, but you need it! How will you wash your laundry. It's a household essential. You go online and start looking for the engineer in your area. They agree to come out to see it but you have to pay a call out fee. Typically anywhere between £50 - 90. Once he gets there you'll be billed for the parts he needs and the time spent to fix it. So where are we, £120 - 150?
Fees for podiatry treatment remain among some
of the most modist private healthcare fees with
a national average of around £40.
Now just hold that thought, and add to it the statement ' I can barely walk. I am in so much pain - but the podiatrist is ...well pretty expensive'.
Podiatry forms one of our greatest yet most unsung allied health professions. I admit we have a massive identity crisis facing us. One which we are desperately trying to move away with the perceptions of old. Having to justify the clinical skills and re-enforce daily, hourly perhaps in some cases our entitlement to charge fees for our skills and the services we deliver. We are often asked or expected to do work for free, albeit mundane, simple foot care tasks. But how insulting is that. Would any other professional person, whose invested time and money in a university education be expected to work for free?
There are many examples and parallels that can be drawn, much like the washing machine engineer, the hairdresser being another favorite that springs to mind. But I will resist, because this was never supposed to be some kind of rant. It is, however, important to talk about the difference between 'price' and 'value' and the overall attitude that we have towards our health and well being. When the skills of the tradesmen (no disrespect to them of course they too, are skilled), are valued greater than those of the health care professional who, within their armory can remove pain, prevent falls, educate and ultimately improve the quality of your life, I suppose in much the same way clean clothes do.