Health care improvement needs more doctors

The headline here seems to make intrinsic sense. After all, health care is a doctor’s world and therefore doctors would be heavily involved in the process to make it better, safer and more efficient.

Right?

Not always, says Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, the Director of Hospital Medicine at

Patrick Conway, MD, MSc

Cincinnati Children’s. Dr. Conway just finished a stint as a White House fellow and time as the Chief Medical Officer in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. On Tuesday, he gave Grand Rounds at CCHMC and encouraged those health professionals in the audience to get involved.

“You won’t get paid much and you’ll work really hard,” he said. “But we need it. There aren’t enough doctors involved (in policy making)” Dr. Conway said.

During his time in Washington — a time when the health care reform bill worked its way through Congress and the economic recovery act funneled billions of dollars into new programs — Dr. Conway worked as the head of the Comparative Effectiveness Research Council. Among other things, the group helped distribute funding for projects designed to “change the outcome” of patients through evidenced-based medicine in the entire spectrum of care. He often found himself fighting for kids.

“You don’t always have to have a pediatrician in the room, but it helps,” he said.

One of the major goals of comparative effectiveness research (now known as Patient-Centered Outcomes Research) is to disseminate the information from the researcher to the front-line physicians who can apply it. Dr. Conway cited a commentary he co-authored in the Journal of the American Medical Association  that suggests the “systematic failure” of translating research into improved patient care. “The United States will continue to fail to fully leverage new clinical discoveries into improved health outcomes unless there is an accelerated transformation of the health care system,” he wrote.

Cincinnati Children’s has invested heavily in improving our health care delivery system. We have seen how having the right person in the right place at the right time improves the efficiency of our operating rooms. We have shown how improving quality (i.e. reducing infections) can reduce costs. We have built computer networks that facilitate information sharing leading to improved care for patients all across the country. We tested medications side-by-side to see which one is best for treating conditions.

It’s about gathering information to make the best possible decisions. It’s about measuring everything you do so you can tell if you’re getting better. Dr. Conway says the folks in D.C. need to decide what research is funded, and what goes wanting. They need to know which groups of patients should be given priority.

They need doctors and other health care providers to guide them.

We’ll be there.

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