I have a theory. I believe we can solve the primary care shortage with the most American-as-apple-pie, tried-and-true solution this blessed country of ours has ever invented: the reality TV show.
Hear me out: No one had heard of “forensics” before CSI. But it became a competitive, saturated job market, despite the fact that – let’s face it – the characters’ careers all seem short on lifestyle and big on pointless bureaucracy. (Also: running from serial killers.)
And primary care could be just one tv show away from the same fate. (… But fewer serial killers.)
The Contestants: A dozen or so primary care physicians, carefully selected to conform to reality TV tried-and-true personas: “The 7th-generation Prestigious School physician who lacks all common sense”, “The plucky, street-smart physician with a heart of gold”, “The sassy, no-nonsense rural doctor”, “The gunner MD who will stop at nothing to win”.
The Prize: Would be a sum of money to the charity of their choice, free publicity for their practice, and co-pay forgiveness for their patients – donated by the show’s sponsoring insurance company.
The Challenges: Mostly, these would be timed diagnostic challenges, but there’d be a curveball every few episodes:
“Draw the brachial plexus from memory. Blind-folded.”
“Please work in teams to match the correct Forrest Pharmaceuticals drug to the conditions it is FDA-approved to treat.”
“In this room is a hypertensive patient who wants to lose weight, but “doesn’t have the time”. Each physician has 10 minutes to take a history and propose solutions to the patient – who will then pick the winner. Oh, and by the way? The patient only speaks Croatian. GO!”
The Patients: Would all be volunteers who have been screened for psychiatric problems and already undergoing treatment for their disease.
The Host: Would be Anderson Cooper.
The Show: Would make the person who pitched it disgustingly rich.
Are you sold on this yet? Feel free to pass it on to your friend-of-your-friend’s uncle who used to work at NBC or wherever. It’s clearly golden.
(… At least, assuming someone comes up for a catchy name for it. Is anyone good at that? Let’s try for a pun.)