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Getting more involved with health policy as an independent physician

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There is an old saying that “everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Though often attributed to Mark Twain, the statement was actually made by Twain’s friend, Charles Dudley Warner, who was himself a writer but also an advocate for movements that contributed toward the good of the public. Independent physicians are very much like this as well. The work of healthcare providers most definitely contributes to the wellbeing of their patients.

Independent physicians also face challenges in regard to health policy regulations and requirements that they might be able to do something about with the right guidance and a little bit of extra time. Most physicians are overworked, of course, so that last part may be a significant hurdle.

As a recent article in Medical Economics points out, “changing policies can seem virtually impossible for busy physicians. But at the same time, it can be a vital step to improving the healthcare system within which doctors must work to help patients.” Pamela Wible MD, a primary care physician in Eugene, Oregon, however, points out “that it is important to avoid simply complaining about the situation, but instead, to present a solution to whoever is in charge.”

Becoming more involved with changing or initiating health policy is more effective when the physician can provide a realistic plan for a solution. For example, Jesanna Cooper MD, an obstetrician in Birmingham, Alabama, wanted to make changes in her independent practice, to expand to include midwifery services, a change that required “major modifications in her healthcare system bylaws.”

Dr. Cooper gathered quality indicators in support of her plan and determined exactly what she and her practice needed. She spent three years working toward her goal. In the process, she found, though, that her detailed plans “did not fit well with the administration’s plans for our service line.” However, she says that her success, after those three years, “was due to the support of other physicians across several departments.”

Dr. Cooper encourages other providers to follow suit when they see health policy that needs to be changed. She says her “experience underscores the need for physicians to organize and work together to affect changes that will benefit both our patients and our profession.”