The cumulative actions of individual physicians can help reform our dysfunctional health system. In accordance with professional obligations set forth by the American College of Physicians’ charter, physicians should take steps to help reshape health care.
The authors offer the following suggestions to physicians:
- Commit to improving quality of care in daily practice, including collecting and reporting quality data.
- Eliminate wasteful medical spending at the bedside, considering the costs of medications, diagnostic tests and invasive treatments. Act locally and think globally.
- Improve communications through implementation of electronic medical records and participation in information exchange systems. Provide patients with information they can share with other providers, if necessary.
- Be involved in community-based programs that directly benefit patients, especially those uninsured or underserved.
- Contribute creative solutions to payment reform, tying it to quality outcomes.
- Help patients understand health care reform. Physicians are a trusted source of information.
- Consider the ethics of relationships with pharmaceutical companies—how free gifts and lunches and invitations to speak at or attend conferences influence prescribing behaviors.
Physicians can have a meaningful leadership role in health care reform. However, in doing so they must prioritize their obligations to patients and to society.