In 1910, William Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic, said, “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered.” Nearly 100 years later, these words still ring true. As the Obama administration, Congress and others begin to tackle healthcare reform, it is critical that the interests of patients be the driving force of any systemic overhaul.
One of the most important areas in which the physician community can influence change in the healthcare system is by partnering with patients to improve access and ensure value. It is critical that the patient be part of the care team. We must develop strategies and tools for empowering patients to get involved with their care decisions and outcomes. We also must find ways to establish and maintain effective communication and collaboration within and across care teams and care settings.
In particular, cardiovascular professionals are able to play a crucial role in improving the physician-patient relationship because of our wide-sweeping reach and high level of trust. Nearly three-fourths of Americans know someone affected by heart disease, and cardiologists are among the most trusted specialists, according to a survey conducted this past fall by the ACC.
Here’s what we can do to bring the focus back to patients:
- Increase transparency and accountability—at every step of the process—to ensure that every patient knows that we have his or her best interests at heart.
- Better communicate diagnosis and treatment options to patients so that they can have a greater understanding and better participation in their care decisions.
- Direct patients to informative websites, such as CardioSmart.org, which provide information about cardiovascular diseases and new research and clinical documents in a way that is easy for patients to understand.
The ACC has dubbed 2009 as the “Year of the Patient,” in which the needs of patients will be at the forefront of all the college’s efforts. The theme will resonate throughout national leadership and into our state chapters not only in 2009, but also as a long-term theme for the college. Programming will be held that will strengthen the patient-physician relationship with both short- and long-term strategies. The college also will work with lawmakers to implement policies that encourage patient empowerment.
We need to use our position as leaders to influence healthcare reform in a way that benefits the people who matter most—our patients. We must determine a vision for change—a vision of healthcare professionals who act not out of self-interest but in the interest of their patients—and we must communicate and persuade others to follow us.
The pathway to quality is through the patient. The core of healthcare remains exactly as it did at its start 200 years ago: the interaction between a patient and a doctor. Let’s make sure this remains the focus during healthcare reform efforts, and high-quality care will be the natural result.