By Janet Hurley, M.D.
Chair, TAFP Commission on Health Care Services and Managed Care
As I look with uncertainty to the future health care landscape and talk with fellow family physicians, I find many of us fearful of what the upcoming years will bring. I admit there are times when I get discouraged too, when it seems like things are too difficult to fix or that the problems are too big to solve. It’s in those moments that I realize we are living in a fallen world and the temptation is strong to just hide or give up. But God does not call us to hide our worries; he calls us to shine our light to the world around us. So I ask you, what does your light look like?
We are all called to be leaders to some degree, either in our families, our practice, or our government. Some will move on to state and national leadership realms, but it is okay if not all of us do that. How do you use your gifts and talents? Are you befuddled with frustration and worry? Have you hunkered down in seclusion? To squander our gifts and talents is like burying the best of ourselves in the sand. We’ll look back and wonder where the “good old days” have gone and realize that our health care system is no longer recognizable to us and that we have been left behind, frustrated and broken. Each of us has gifts and talents that should not be left unused.
I believe family medicine will play an important role in the establishment of a sustainable health care model for the future because it provides affordable quality care to patients. Family medicine will not lead simply because we have a great lobby team at the state and national levels, nor because we bark the loudest. It will lead because we are the best product out there, and this fact should not be undervalued, hidden under the snobbery of academia, nor belittled by “gatekeeper” terminology. The message we convey and the service we provide should not be buried in the sand because we feel despondent, frustrated, or worried.
The challenges in health care require us to tackle difficult and controversial topics. The cost of health care is the real enemy, and we must learn all we can about reducing redundancies in our health care delivery systems and eliminating excessive procedures and tests, as well as unnecessary ER visits and hospitalizations. We must be willing to cast off old treatment paradigms within our own practices that can no longer be defended by evidence.
There will also be an emphasis on patient accountability. We need to embrace elements such as motivational interviewing and patient self-management support tools to empower patients to live healthier lives and embrace healthier living practices. Yet we will also need to respect personal freedoms that sometimes lead to self-destructive patterns of behavior. While we should always treat patients with respect and dignity, there will need to be an acknowledgement that society can no longer bear the responsibility of expensive treatments for the conditions that ensue from some of these behaviors. How our government and our society tackle these difficult ethical issues will be the greatest challenge in this process. And to have our government and our society do so without the expertise of family physicians, who have been at the bedside of these patients, would be a great tragedy.
So again, I ask, how are you using your gifts and talents? What does your light look like? If you are looking for ways to make your voice heard, and want to be a part of these big issues that face our society, our nation, and our specialty, then please be a part of what we are doing here at TAFP. Do not bury your gifts and talents, and do not hide your light under a bowl. Do not succumb to doubt, dread, or fear. The future is bright for our specialty, and brighter still if the armies of our members rise up to the challenge with confidence and integrity. I look forward to having you join us along this journey.