Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Professional Physician Organizations: A Continuing Necessary Ingredient for Ongoing Health Reform

This JAMA article on "Professional Organizations' Role in Supporting Physicians to Improve Value in Health Care" reminds readers that "organized medicine" continues to have an important role in national health reform.  The Population Health Blog agrees and adds that these doctor professional organizations have not only been underestimated recently, but will continue to be a force to be reckoned with - both a national and state level.

The article points out that groups like the American Medical Association (AMA) along with the various sister specialty physician organizations, along with health systems, practice associations and various non-governmental entities, are critical to the success of the Affordable Care Act.  These doc groups been long-time advocates for health reform, are still trusted by a significant number of providers, collectively represent a majority of docs and bring insights to a complicated health system.

And what are they doing to help with reform?  According to the authors, they've been serving as "conveners," helping to marshal resources, are creating standards and helping regulators.  While the JAMA article naturally mentions a number of national initiatives (such as Choosing Wisely), the PHB points out the same kind of important activity is occurring at the state level.  A good example can be found here.

Before some PHB readers tut-tut the faux importance of the AMA and its many national and local affiliates by having you believe that docs have transitioned their loyalty from their profession to their employers, the PHB would point to three sentinel events that say otherwise:

1. Even the White House believed that organized medicine was important enough that it sought to circumvent the influence of the AMA by fostering its own professional doctor group called "Doctors for America."  While it hasn't worked so well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

2. The Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative's Board of Directors has a significant number of members with deep roots in organized medicine.  It's testimony to a vital constituency on which the success of the Patient Centered Medical Home depends.

3. While tort reform has been outside the scope of this blog, an important ballot initiative dealing with California's benchmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) will be put before the state's voters this fall.  The lead organization of an impressive coalition of labor, business and consumer groups that has been created to defeat the proposition and preserve MICRA is, you guessed it, a state medical association.

The lesson for population health providers?  Reach out to and work with the physician groups at all levels of reforming the system.

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