Humor in healthcare: Doc uses satire to drive transformation

doctor burnout

A doctor dedicated to “restoring humanity to healthcare” has found an effective, if unusual, way to get his message out to a broad audience: satirical videos on Youtube, writes consultant Dave Chase in Forbes.

Zubin Damania, M.D., head of Turntable Health, performs the videos as his alter ego, ZDoggMD, channeling the spirit of his childhood hero, Weird Al Yankovic. According to Chase, his work focuses on hot-button topics among clinicians and groups of patients, ranging from doctors’ distaste for electronic health record systems to the economic consequences of healthcare costs on millennials, seniors and the middle class.

Chase sees ZDoggMD’s greatest resonance among doctors in the way he mines the gap between clinical care’s core focus on humanity and the sense many clinicians have that their industry has become increasingly inhuman, often at the hands of hospital or healthcare administrations. In his speaking engagements, Damania has pointed out that “we only spend 4 percent of healthcare budgets on primary care while the rest is generally a byproduct of undermined primary care.”

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Meanwhile, Chase says doctors have been systematically trained to defer concerns about the cost of healthcare to administrative authorities, making them the face of an industry whose economic treatment of its patients they find appalling. That decreased well-being leads to doctors feeling abused by the system, and in turn to burnout and depression, according to Chase.

Damania’s solution is a movement he calls “Unbreaking Healthcare,” which aims to develop a new way of thinking about healthcare that “puts the well-being of individuals and clinicians over a flawed healthcare system that simultaneously underperforms on value and health outcomes.” Chase stresses the need for clinicians and citizens to band together in order to transform the healthcare system, since neither constituency is likely to succeed in doing so on its own.

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