Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Physicians and Health Reform: Heal Thyselves

The Disease Management Care Blog is a member of the American Medical Association, it's State Society and the County Medical Society. It's also a member of the specialty organization for internists, the American College of Physicians.

The DMCB may be something of an exception. Depending on the practice type, many physicians may not belong to any of the usual organized medicine groups. There are other professional organizations, however, that address the needs of specialist physicians such as gastroenterologists or orthopedic surgeons. Each individual group probably has an idea of it's 'market penetration,' but the DMCB doubts it's 100%.

This is important because despite the wide number of professional associations out there, there are a significant number physicians in clinical practice who are 'disengaged.' These groups not only serve educational and professional needs, but they also provide advocacy on behalf of its members and the patients they serve. Not participating in any association, organization or society means not having any input during what is arguably one of the most tumultuous times in the history of American medicine.

The DMCB has two suggestions:

1) To its physician colleagues who haven't joined at least one professional group, you are doing your patients a disservice by letting your opinions go unheard. You owe it to yourself to join up with at least one organization that comes close to what you believe. That may mean the AMA or it may mean PNHP or it may mean a specialty society. If either of these groups are too 'left' or 'right,' it may be because you're not participating. If they haven't succeeded in getting anything done, it may be because you're not participating. Dues can cost less than a large flat screen T.V., but that's not the point: you ultimately can't afford to not join.

As an aside the DMCB points out that the local preachers in its home town don't care which church the local neighbors go to, just so long as they go to a church every Sunday. Organized medicine groups should take a page out of that playbook and promote the idea of professional membership somewhere. Physicians would be better off for it.

2) To policy makers, the DMCB recommends that efforts to promote greater integration among physicians, such as the creation of 'Accountable Care Organizations,' include an assessment of how many physicians are involved in a professional organization that promotes education, establishes professional standards and is involved in advocacy efforts. It wouldn't be all that difficult to create language that establishes the standards. The point is that ACOs and their patients would be better off it were populated by physicians who gave a damn.

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