Listen Up, Washington: Patients come first

  | January 17, 2017

When it comes to healthcare policy, this is a time of both turmoil and opportunity. It's also a time for the stakeholders to speak. As Washington mulls the status of the Affordable Care Act and priorities for the future, athenaInsight asked physicians and healthcare executives to share their perspectives.

The future of healthcare has been at the forefront of the national dialogue. And amidst all of the debate on costs and coverage, it was encouraging for me to watch Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — a physician — stand before the Senate next to a large sign that read, "Patients First."

We must not allow efforts to improve healthcare in America to be defined by metrics that don't include individual and population health as a top priority.

In a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I spoke with a senator's aide about what she liked about her interaction with the current healthcare system and her provider. Her response was, "Absolutely nothing." Yet she proceeded to laud the merits of the ACA. If the doctor-patient relationship has deteriorated so much, and there is such broad dissatisfaction with our healthcare system, then what are we fighting about?

So much effort has been expended in the fight to provide health insurance. Although more Americans now have health insurance coverage, Sen. Cassidy rightly called this “the illusion of coverage without the benefit of access." It's not that coverage is a bad thing, but when coverage is prioritized over true access to good care, the patients are the ones who suffer.

One-size-fits all healthcare regulation fails to address the significant variations in care that are both necessary and essential to the provision of quality care for our patients. It's not the government's job to provide healthcare for its citizens. It's my job.

R. Orie Browne, M.D., Ph.D., FAWM is chief of staff at Lost Rivers Medical Center in Arco, Idaho.

Listen Up, Washington: Patients come first