Media Reports Highlight the Need for Physician-Led Health Care

December 4, 2012 at 1:55am

The following is an opinion by Dr. C. Richard Schott, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and a practicing cardiologist from suburban Philadelphia.


A great deal of national media attention has been focused in the past few days on allegations that some physicians are being pressured, particularly emergency physicians, to make medical decisions that are financially beneficial to the hospital but may not be necessary for the care of the patient.


A report in the New York Times (Nov. 30, 2012) and a segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes” (Dec. 2, 2012) looked at allegations by physicians who had practiced at a variety of hospitals in the United States, including Carlisle Regional Medical Center, a hospital owned by Health Management Associates.


The Pennsylvania Medical Society is not in a position to comment on the validity of these reports.


But, as the state physician association, we can say that the best medical decisions are made when physicians, leading a team of health care providers, work closely with their patients without the presence of financial pressures. The society estimates that approximately 70 percent of physicians are now employed by a large group, hospital, or health system. Physician employees must put the needs of patients far ahead of their or their employers’ economic needs.


This is true even though financial pressures are mounting throughout the health care system. While health system reform seeks to expand access and increase quality – both desperately needed, but also costly – physicians could face steep Medicare cuts on Jan. 1, 2013, due in part to the “fiscal cliff” sequestration reductions.


Regardless of the finances, however, what’s most important is that patients receive appropriate care.  Physician-led health care teams, working closely with patients, are in the best position to make those decisions.  Patients agree. In a society Patient Poll, 75 percent of those surveyed said patients benefit when a physician leads the health care team.


Physicians need to lead and shape health care delivery to assure that the evolving system provides quality and value to patients and the community.


The society believes in this so strongly that our organization adopted this philosophy as a strategic vision, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from all corners of the health care community.


To make this vision a reality, we are working closely with CEOs of large physician groups, deans of Pennsylvania’s medical schools, and, of course, physicians from the full range of specialties and types of medical practices: solo practitioners, group practices, and large health systems.


As our country works its way through health care reform, we have the opportunity to build a better health care system. The foundation for this system is patient care delivered by the physician-led health care team.