The medical establishment has climbed into bed with the nation's health insurers and agreed to a "national set of standards" for the public to measure physician performance.
Memo to the public: Don't expect this to be the solution to your medical problems.
Mainstream medicine and the insurers are equally responsible for the expensive mediocrity and lack of care that defines today's healthcare shambles. These two groups coming together are not going to fix anything, they are the ones that created much of the misfortune we now define as so-called healthcare.
National standards won't motivate doctors to provide any better care nor help the public become healthier. What's needed is patient advocacy and education to help the public navigate this enormous and bewildering system and help doctors learn to become more caring and service oriented to deliver the best possible outcome.
Fact is patients today are confused by the rapid changes in care and ever increasing treatment options, by reckless pharmaceutical marketing aimed directly at them on TV and print, and by the vast array of unverifiable medical information swamping the internet.
No one is stepping forward to help the public and they no longer trust conventional medical treatments to be in their best interests. No wonder there is a growing trend towards alternative and unconventional medical advice and treatments. Not that these treatments hold any more promise or proof of efficacy.
Applying "national standards" to a field so complex and diverse is an insult to every doctor and patient in this country. It will serve neither constituency, but it will certainly keep the machine that is our present healthcare mess spinning.
"Physician report cards will not be based on cost alone," claims Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the president-elect of the American Medical Association who, along with the American College of Surgeons, agreed to this insane deal with the insurers.
It's not clear what factors will be used to determine these so-called national standards. In the past, doctors complained that insurers were obsessed by costs and ignored the quality of care provided and that rankings supplied to patients were inaccurate or meaningless. Why hasn't anyone listened to the doctors then?
By the way, the AMA does not enjoy a stellar reputation when it comes to protecting the best interests of doctors or patients. This newest sham won't help their predicament.
The group represents barely 19% of the nation's practicing physicians. In the past, it has been accused of inflating medical costs in the U.S. by limiting the supply of physicians to insure them higher pay. It did this by limiting the size of medical schools through its control by retired members of state licensing boards. Now, the AMA is in the business of making money off the doctors while representing other interest groups.
You might be interested to know the AMA derives a significant portion of its income from selling physician prescribing data to pharmaceutical companies, claiming $33 million in revenue in 2005 from this practice. Not to mention how much pharma monies goes into the AMA's coffers just to support its mere existence.
Doctors - and patients - should not look to discredited groups like this to help them improve the stare of our health care.
The answer lies in empowerment through education and patient advocacy and definitely not sponsored by the drug companies or their representatives.
People don't belong in the doctor's offices, testing facilities or hospitals. They belong in their own lives.