Update: Two days after the NY Times story, the American Board of OB/Gyn modified their rules allowing members to treat men for STDs and screen for anal cancer. That’s Patient Centered (and member centered)!
I try to stay positive. My dear colleague Ted Eytan says he’s “3/4 full” – I love that. Staying positive in health care can be a hard these days. Here’s an oxymoron for today: Patient-Centered Organized Medicine.
Patient centered they’re not, says the New York Times today, in Gynecologists Run Afoul of Panel When Patient Is Male, a story about Boston’s Dr. Elizabeth Stier. It seems that in her Gynecology practice she sees some men at high risk for anal cancer. She sees the condition to mirror cervical health in women, and she’s become a local expert and valuable resource to her largely low income male patients. But the OB/Gyn board drew a line and said if she treats men, she loses her specialty certification.
A quick look at the OB/Gyn Board website, and I wonder how much they know their members, or know the patients of their members. The Executive Team is all men. Of 15 Board of Directors, 10 are men. I’m not saying gynecologists must be women, but I wonder: how Patient Centered is this specialty organization? How participatory is their decision-making?
I’m reminded of a 2007 paper by Hal Sox, Medical professionalism and the parable of the craft guilds. He wrote about how important it is for medical societies (a contemporary version of craft guilds) need to put patients at a higher level than self-interested and adopt a broader code of professionalism, stating
While meeting the needs of individual patients, physicians are required to provide health care that is based on the wise and cost-effective management of limited clinical resources.
My understanding of Patient Centered is changing, coming to be more about equal footing and a balanced distribution of power. Speeches like the one Anna Quindlen gave at the American Association of Medical Colleges, AAMC, are extraordinary and illuminate rigid, problematic mindsets today. Quindlen, prize-winning author, shared her stories with med school deans and leaders about how health professionals seem to sometimes not know their patients – leading to poor quality and experiences. What is it about Patient Centered Care that medicine doesn’t get? The irony is ridiculous: we’re too busy taking care of patients. Appointments, schedules, electronic records, pagers, phone calls, faxes, secure emails, quality measurement, performance pay, and…and…
Her speech is only available until December 3rd, posted here. (posted about this on the Society of Participatory Medicine blog)
Whether it’s about learning more about individual patients’ values and needs, or the needs of the health professionals who work hard getting to know and care for their patients — it’s where we need to move. About that, I’m Positively 4/4 Full.