To Serve Man?

Yes, the title of this post is a tip of the hat to the Twilight Zone episode of the same name. It raises a somewhat similar question: Do you, that is your medical group, really exist to serve others, in this case “the hospital,” or are you simply serving yourself up as a tasty meal to be taken and devoured?

Many medical groups, certainly many hospital-based groups but, increasingly, even office-based groups, view themselves as simply providing a “service” for the hospital, functioning as a sort of clearinghouse for income and expenses. This mindset severely limits your group’s future.

It limits the willingness, and the ability, of your group to pursue outside opportunities. That’s chiefly because there is tremendous pressure to pass through to the owner, and often to the non-owner, physicians all available income, instead of immediately investing in, or creating the capital reserves necessary to pursue, other opportunities.

Additionally, “service” groups often suffer from the mindset that the group was formed to provide services at only that hospital, thus taking off the table completely the consideration of other opportunities, even if the group were able to deal with the notion of holding back what would otherwise be income available for distribution.

Of course, “service status” results in a severely weakened position vis-a-vis the hospital, which knows that your group’s very existence depends on renewal of its exclusive contract.  That’s a horrible position for your group to be in, both in terms of the concessions that the hospital may demand, and that your group may be forced to give – not to advance its position in some other respect, but merely to save its own life.

In the Twilight Zone episode, aliens, the Kanamits, come to earth on professed humanitarian grounds. The first Kanamit visitor leaves behind a book, the title of which cryptographers translate as “To Serve Man.”

The Kanamits bring about the end of hunger, world peace, etc., etc. and invite humans to visit their beautiful planet, which they begin to do in droves.

Then, just as one of the cryptographers, Chambers, starts to board a Kanamit spaceship for the voyage, one of his colleagues, Patty, who’s been working to translate the text of the Karamit book, rushes to the departure site and frantically yells, “Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cookbook!

The warning came a bit too late for Mr. Chambers. Don’t let it come a bit too late for you.

Comment or contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Mark F. Weiss

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