A New Venue From a Surprising Source to Discuss "External Threats to Good Decision-Making"

A new blog, entitled the Medical Professionalism Blog, signed on last week with a post emphasizing some themes that should be familiar to Health Care Renewal readers:
There is an increasing focus on the sustainability of the U.S. health care system based on current cost trends. Predictions are for the health care system to consume 19% of the GDP by 2019. How did we get here?

Some point to the overuse and misuse of health care services, inefficiencies and lack of care coordination. Others blame the lack of clinical evidence, primary care workforce and the external threats to good decision-making, such as a toxic payment system and the influence of pharmaceutical and device companies.

While there are many different ideas about what got us here and what should be done, there is wide consensus that physicians and other stakeholders must begin to develop new more effective and efficient systems of care and make wise choices that preserve our health care system’s sustainability.
We have been underlining concerns that health care professionals' values, the mission of academic medicine, and truly evidence-based practice are under a series of threats.  (For a recent, but already out of date list of threats to the academic medical mission, see this post.)  It is nice to see that that others are now alarmed by these threats and looking for ways to counter them.

So, our new colleague in the blog-sphere raised the following questions:
* What is the appropriate role of physicians and other stakeholders in preserving these resources?

* What behaviors foster and which threaten wise choices in medical decision-making?

* How can waste be removed from the system without sacrificing quality or safety?

* What system changes are needed to achieve better health care outcomes, reduce costs and improve the patient experience?

* What effect do the nature and performance of partnerships – clinician-patient, clinician-organization and clinician-society — have on professional behaviors and resource use?

Again, the importance of threats was emphasized, and concerns about conflicts of interest affecting physicians' professionals were implied. This blog will apparently have a unique focus which I hope will complement our approach on Health Care Renewal.

What we’re hearing from folks is the need to 'show me how' to answer these questions. Through analysis of promising practices, we hope to provide examples of what works – and what doesn’t.

So we welcome The Medical Professionalism Blog to our blog-roll and look forward to some interesting content.

For a final twist, I need to note that this blog's authorship appears to be unique. The Health Care Renewal bloggers, and most of our blogging friends mostly seem to include, in no particular order: academic physicians, often tenured or retired (and thus able to speak more freely), other generally senior or retired academics, independent or retired practicing physicians, journalists, independent consultants, some whistle-blowers and others who once worked in the health care establishment, and some very anonymous bloggers in the belly of the beast.  Thus, we are generally an very independent and iconoclastic, if a somewhat rag-tag lot.

However, the chief blogger on The Medical Professionalism Blog is Daniel Wolfson, who is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the ABIM (American Board of Internal Medicine) Foundation,  and the blog itself is a project of the foundation.  Thus, this is a blog from the heart of the medical establishment, the powers that be, etc, etc.  No other blog on our blog-roll comes from a current leader of such an organization.  (One is written by someone who was a CEO of a major academic medical center/ hospital system, but who lost his job under controversial circumstances.)

It is truly refreshing to have a voice coming from the inside, so to speak, proclaim:
The Medical Professionalism Blog was created by the ABIM Foundation to stimulate conversation and highlight best practices related to professionalism....

Open for considerable debate is my belief that physicians’ engagement in quality, safety and the management of health care resources ultimately improves the care they give their patients and adds to their joy of work. I look forward to hearing your point of view, even if it’s a dissenting one.

Lately, we have not heard a lot of calls for vigorous debate and dissent from the medical establishment, the powers that be, etc, etc. In fact, the anechoic effect is how we describe how such debate and dissent has been suppressed.

So it appears the The Medical Professionalism Blog may be a real breath of fresh air. We hope it can truly inspire some discussion, especially open discussion of issues which used to be not what one was supposed to talk about in polite health care company.  This could help advance the transparency which we have long been advocating.