I was not so purposeful. Upon graduation from high school, I wasn't sure of my direction. Perhaps that, and the GI Bill, explains the ease with which my father convinced me to enlist in the Navy.
While not always the most pleasant experience, two years in the service did give me a chance to grow up a little. It wasn't until after my discharge that I appreciate how much I had learned.
Boot Camp was an education in itself. Living in close quarters with an assemblage of young men from diverse backgrounds engenders life experiences not soon forgotten. Most people think of Boot Camp as physically challenging; it is to some extent, but the monotony is much more difficult to deal with. The favorite activity of the service is marching: back and forth, left and right across the "grinder" (a singularly large parking lot-like area without lines).
Through no intent of my own, I was chosen to be sixth squad leader: a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This task included inspecting all of the men in my column before the actual inspection: straightening clothes, buttoning buttons, and dry shaving (for that inspection-close look).
The best part about the sixth squad leader position was when we marched. Although I still covered the same amount of miles, being in front did give me a much better view. One of my first lessons in human nature was watching who lined up where in formation. The "gung ho" types were right up front; those who lined up later or felt less involved kept to the rear. It was always interesting to see the look on the faces of the back column when the company commander shouted. "TO THE REAR ... MARCH!" Suddenly, the stragglers in the back had to lead; many weren't ready for it and would get out of step, turn the wrong way, or generally act like Gomer Pyle.
For a number of years now, insurance companies and MBAs have been making health care decisions through "managed care." They have taken the choices away from patients and health care providers and put them in the hands of claims reviewers and number crunchers.
But the tide is turning. Patients are beginning to take back control. According to a National Public Radio broadcast, 60% of employees receiving their health care under managed care are now choosing point-of-service options. And Texas Governor George Bush Jr. just signed a bill to allow patients to sue managed care organizations (the U.S. Congress and other states are considering similar bills).
Consumers are tired of being told what doctor to see and what will and won't be covered. The age-old values of quality and service are making their way to the top of patient health care priority list.
Trying to catch the wave of public opinion, HMOs are falling all over themselves to appear more patient-oriented. MDs are also trying to get in-step as they struggle to retain their market share.
Public pressure is forcing the health care industry to do an about face. More and more advertising is directed towards the consumer. A recent article in Direct magazine reports:
"Health care providers are spending $600 million annually marketing their products (services) and pharmaceuticals directly to consumers."1Virtually every study comparing chiropractic care with other forms of care demonstrates chiropractic's superiority in patient satisfaction. This has always been our strongest form of marketing. It is now time to make this fact pay off.
The move by the public towards patient-oriented health care has the potential to place chiropractic at the head of the column of health care providers. All we have to do is march in the right direction, stay in step and lead.
1. What's Up, Doc, Direct ("The Magazine of Direct Marketing Management"), May 15, 1997.
Donald M. Petersen Jr., BS, HCD(hc), FICC(h)
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