Writing on the New Yorker’s “News Desk” today, Boston surgeon Atul Gawande laid out the challenge that health care reform poses for hospital administrators, physicians, nurses and every other professional in our health care system. (By professionals, I mean people who realize that they must put the interests of a sick person ahead of their own interests. I have met pharmacists, lab workers, home health care workers and many others who take this responsibility seriously. In many cases, this is why they chose the job.)
Gawande writes: “What made the passage of health reform historic is that, after almost a century of effort to reverse this, hope has arrived.
“We as a nation—and in particular those of us in medicine—now have work to do to defend and deliver on this promise and to address the legitimate concerns about costs while making health care better for everyone. But that is the remarkable thing. We have finally been given the work to do.”
Yes, this legislation gives medical professionals an opportunity to take the power back from the for-profit corporations that now, to a very large degree, run health care in this country. Today, even nonprofit insurers and hospitals are affected by for-profits. They must compete with them, and thus, in many cases, they have begun to imitate them.
But health care professionals can help only if they understand that reform is all about rewarding patient-centered, evidence-based medicine. Medicine should not be profit-driven. Those who think of medicine as a “business,” like any other, will be out of luck.