The Physician As Island Versus Support From Intermediaries

Should physicians have the final say in patient care?

Someone tweeted me this question the other day. It made me start to think…

Logically, individuals trust their physician to act in their best interest and make the best decisions (based on the information they have).  But, this has shifted from the MD as the primary source of knowledge to the MD as a part of a care team.

There are probably more, but I can think of 5 important things that need to be fixed for the physician to be seen as an ‘information island’ where they can make the best decisions without intermediaries (PBMs, managed care, disease management companies) intervening:

1.  They have to be able to not practice defensive medicine.

2.  They have to understand my costs.

3.  There have to be no meaningful differences based on geography or income or race.

4.  They have to adopt best practices quickly.

5.  They have to be able to be paid based on outcomes.

Some of these are systemic changes that have to be addressed (#1 and #5). The other three can be addressed thru technology (as long as physicians are willing to embrace the science of medicine not just the art).  As a quick example, look at Dr. Atul Gawande’s book. – The Checklist Manifesto or look at some of the work by companies like Health Dialogue on shared decision making.

Now, maybe the person that asked the question is taking a more radical stand and physician’s embrace the support these companies provide them, but that hasn’t historically been true.

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