Doctors are facing challenges like never before. Not only are new medications being discovered and novel technologies being implemented, we are being bombarded with new regulations. Years ago, people were talking about how to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Currently, all the journals are talking about big data, EHR, meaningful use, and ICD-10. Not only do we need to stay current with all the medical innovation taking hold, we need to learn how to comply with all these regulations.
Many doctors feel these requirements are actually not helpful as being touted. In fact, we feel there is harm being done because they are taking us away from direct contact with the patient. According to a study out of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, it has been estimated that ER docs spend 44% of time on electronic data entry and 28% on patient contact. Doctors are becoming increasingly vocal on speaking up against these regulations that we are forced to comply with. However, after years of being forbidden to unionize or collectively bargain, we are often doing it alone. We feel isolated in this sea of chaos. Polices will never change based on just one voice. If we are to drive policy change and shape regulations to become meaningful for the quality of medicine, we need to find a unified voice.
How can doctors find unity and speak up against wrongful healthcare policies?
1. We can share information about these policy changes. We all need to stay up-to-date with them for our own practices. When we are aware, share them and discuss with other doctors why or why not these policies are reasonable. Bring them to your hospital committee and medical staff meetings. Discuss it there in a group.
2. Find out who are the governing bodies in our localities. Bring our regulatory and policy concerns to them. Share these key governmental players with other doctors so a concerted effort can be undertaken to bring our concerns to the lawmakers.
3. Use social media to spread the word. Social media can be a very powerful tool to bring attention to our cause. We can garner support, not just from other doctors and institutions, but the general public as well. When patients realize their time with the doctor is being compromised by policy changes, they may join our cause.
4. Join your state medical societies. Attend their meetings and voice your concerns. Write articles for their publications to connect with more doctors in your state. Talk with the leaders of these organizations and encourage them to advocate for what is right.
5. Speak up in the media. Many journalists love to hear the opinion of doctors. Look for these opportunities. They don’t just come to you, but you have to find them.
6. Don’t be passive and just accept everything being hoisted on you. We have all done this for far too long, and much of the control of healthcare policy has been wrenched out of our hands.
7. Join an online community of doctors only, such as Sermo, which is anonymous, and these ideas can be freely discussed without any fear of retribution. Doctors can join together here and find a unified voice.
Too much of medicine is now being determined by politicians with no medical knowledge rather than those trained in medicine. In order to provide patients with the highest quality of care, healthcare policy should be determined by those with the most knowledge of medicine: doctors. We have watched as policies have been passed and hoisted on us without our input or approval. The quality of healthcare in the U.S. is suffering as a result. It is time we find a unity among us and correct these apparent injustices and restore medicine back to where it belongs. It is time to put the patient back in the center and their data in the backseat. Time for doctors to voice what is meaningful to this transformation.
Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.