Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Doctor's Perspective of Obamacare

Doctors are currently witnessing the profession of medicine moving from the ethic of the individual to the ethic of the collective. The passage of the Affordable Care Act has solidified this treatment ethic and, as a consequence, often creates conflicts between the treating physician and their individual patients. Nowhere is this shift to the ethic of the collective clearer than our expanding attempt to determine treatment "appropriateness" using a look-up chart of euphemistically-scored clinical scenarios owned and trademarked as "Appropriateness Criteria®" or "AUC®" by our own medical professional organizations. For those unfamiliar, these "criteria" label the care rendered in hypothetical clinical situations as "appropriate", "uncertain" or "inappropriate." (ed's note: oops, this year's update labels these "appropriate," "may be appropriate," or "rarely appropriate"). While touted as "evidence-based," these criteria simply are not - they are a consensus opinion of a collection of physicians for clinical scenarios unrelated to any real patient. These are the words of 'Wesley Fisher M.D. who blogs at 'Dr. Wes'. It seems a day never ends that physicians aren't being instructed on what else we must do to massage a chart for the good of the collective without a moment's consideration of what their "criteria" might mean for our patient's best care. This is our new ethic, our new reality. Wesley Fisher says it so succintly, Speak out against this practice and the doctor is instantly labeled "non-evidence-based," "greedy," "self-serving," and "unconcerned" about the "patient collective." So doctors actively put their heads down and care for their patients as best they can. Daily, doctors experience the angst of this movement. We don't want to admit what has happened. Time and again we find ourselves constrained by these "guideline"- or "appropriateness use"-directed care that has been authorized by our own "physician collective" as "appropriate" when, by its very nature, is outdated by the time the guidelines are published, static and fail to incorporate newly-vetted therapies, and conflict with our patient's actual medical needs. Our field of medicine has become so complicit with this movement that we've even allowed our political and justice systems to threaten or impugn those who step outside these or other outdated care guidelines. When doctors abandon our most basic ethic of caring for the individual for that of the collective, we are served our just desserts. Perhaps writing something like this will open our eyes. Or perhaps, as we've been so quick to do, we'll choose to keep them closed and not admit that this has happened. Remember this when others say no to the care your patient needs.
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