As we enter the homestretch of the presidential race, we are all concerned about what direction healthcare will take the rest of the decade. It has been estimated that there will be a shortage of 100,000 doctors by the year 2020. While we cannot change some of the factors contributing to this as the expense of medical school, the dwindling reward vs. remuneration for work done, the desire of many young physicians to avoid the grueling hours of practice of their predecessors and the lack of malpractice reform in our area, we need to be involved in the future direction of our profession.
Some of the deficiencies of physician numbers will be met by technology, which will turn care over to patients so they can monitor their own wellness. There will need to be some form of rationing of service as we go forward with the influx of baby boomers and newly insured people. They will put significant demands on our medical system. No politician will address this likely contingency, but we as physicians already experience these pressures in our daily tug of war with insurers. Our lives are difficult, and I do not anticipate technology making them easier.
What are we to do? We can avoid the problems altogether or be part of the solution. I hope you will all join the Philadelphia County Medical Society. Your support will be helpful as we face queries from insurers and government. THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. It is time to get off the sideline and engage your legislators directly. The unions have no difficulty in getting rank and file out to contact their representatives. It is time we directly contact our representatives and tell them our thoughts directly. It is great to have your Society develop and communicate your position. Your officials will be more moved if they get calls from 10,000 constituents.
I have found that most legislators have little knowledge or understanding of what we do every day. These are the people who will write the rules that govern your life. Certainly, many of these rules are written by staffers and special interest that won’t espouse your interest. This is our ballgame and our patients’ future. Many physicians are resigned to staying on the sidelines. It is time to get out of the bleachers and on to the playing field. Develop professional relationships with lawmakers and let them know what you do every day. Tell them what your concerns for patients are about their legislation.
Whoever wins this election, which both parties have deemed the most important in a generation, change is inevitable.
We must make our voices heard by both parties. Personal ties will go a long way to help develop workable laws. So write, call, explain and engage your lawmakers. This is the most effective way to advance our concerns. Volunteer to meet with them and show them first hand what you do for your patients. Offer your personal services to your legislators. And as one of my partners who took this to heart did, colonoscope your congressman!
Harvey B. Lefton, MD, is President of the Philadelphia County Medical Society (www.philamedsoc.org).