I personally have written little, because it seems to me that hardly any of the discussion swirling around relates to the concerns we discuss on this blog. We write about the bad effects of continuing concentration and abuse of power in health care on physicians' and other health care professionals' core values. We note instances of ill-informed, incompetent, self-interested, conflicted, or even corrupt leaders of health care organizations. We discuss how problems with the governance of health care organizations allow such leadership. We comment on instances in which bad leaders use tactics such as deception, creation of perverse incentives, and intimidation. And we address how all this can lead to higher costs, decreasing access, poor patient outcomes, and demoralized professionals.
For example, just in this month, July, 2009, we posted about:
How Trusted Health Care Institutions are Lead by the Conflicted
- One of the largest and most respected medical societies gets three times as much income from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and device industries as from membership dues, and its current generously salaried president just asks the public to "trust us, we're doctors" (link here);
- The White House health care reform czar just stepped off the board of directors of a health care corporation accused of "ruthless" behavior and making patients feel they are only equivalent to "dollars" (link here);
- An award-winning show on public television featured remarks favoring drug treatment of psychiatric illness by an academic "key opinion leader" without disclosing his multiple financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry (link here);
- A state legislator pleaded guilty to selling his services to an academic medical center (link here);
Health Care Leaders Do Not Share Physicians' Traditional Values
- Leaders of the university that employs the academic "key opinion leader" mentioned above intimidated another of its professors because he wrote a blog critical of the pharmaceutical industry (link here);
- A study showed that primary care doctors burn out not just because they think their pay is low, but because they work in "chaotic" environments, lead by people who do not inspire trust and whose values are not aligned with those of the physicians (link here);
And our archives, going back now to the end of 2004, include much more.
For the most part, however, these are not the issues discussed in the great health care reform debate.
There does seem to be, at the margins, some discussion of a few productive approaches, which deserve credit. These include the Sunshine bill, which would improve disclosure of conflicts of interest generated by health care corporations' payments to health care professionals and academics; the push to support some comparative effectiveness research; and some attempts to address the perverse incentives built into the system used by Medicare to pay physicians. It is not clear, however, whether these efforts are going to get very far, and in any case, they remain peripheral to fervent discussions of health care financing, which seems to be the only topic of interest to most would-be health care reformers.
I believe that the US health care reform will not produce good results if it fails to address the issues we discuss on Health Care Renewal.
But discussion of them, of course, may threaten many with vested interests, and lots of people who have been made rich and powerful by the current system.
So look forward to endless debates about whether the "public option" for health insurance is a good or bad idea, but nothing about how the insurance industry is lead, much less how pharmaceutical, biotechnology, device companies, hospitals and academic medical centers, medical not-for-profit organizations, health care information technology companies, and government agencies are lead, and how bad leadership facilitated by bad governance will continue to make things worse.