Every time I read about some new kind of technology that is designed to help patient care, I wonder how useful it will actually be to our profession, as well as the cost physically and financially to the patient. The most important factor is, and always will be, the relationship between physicians and their patients and no technology, no matter how sophisticated, will supplant that.
Reports on the latest new gadget often cause me to turn to an old article from the Annals of Internal Medicine. The article brings me peace because it focuses on medical professionalism and helps guide me on where we need to go. Here’s a link to the full article, but I will provide you with a brief summary.
First and foremost, the article reminds us that our patients come first. That’s why we joined this profession - to help people. We need to provide our patients with our best knowledge, based on proven science, and guide them so that they can make the best decisions regarding their health.
We must provide this knowledge and guidance to all patients regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, sexual preference, etc. All patients must have access if we are truly doing our jobs.
In addition, we must be dedicated to the ever-improving quality of health care, whether that’s ensuring that we continue to educate ourselves, provide data so that others can learn from what we are doing or make sure that all of our colleagues remain competent and act professionally.
Unfortunately, these points are often obscured when we get into political discussions. In my opinion, we need to stand together on these principles as a profession. In fact, I’d argue that because of who we are and what we do, we have a moral obligation to do so. We have the education, the experience, and the authority to make a difference for our patients, our profession, our communities and the health of the nation as a whole.
One of the best ways to do this is by becoming more active in organized medicine. Join an MMA committee or task force, become politically active through MEDPAC or volunteer to testify before the Legislature. Get active in the AMA. Join your specialty society if you haven’t already. Together, we can increase our sphere of influence.
The world doesn’t need quiet physicians. The world needs physicians who are willing to boldly lead - for the better health of their patients, for their communities, for the nation, for everyone.
Raymond Christensen, M.D., is associate dean of the University of Minnesota’s Duluth School of Medicine. He is also an AMA delegate for the MMA.