By Ernest Lampe, MD
The physician-patient relationship is one of the foundational aspects of the practice of medicine. For the relationship to thrive, patients must trust that their physicians have their welfare and best interests in mind. It sounds easier than it really is. Medicine is complex and changing, the business of medicine is dynamic and very competitive, and both the health system and broader society in which all of us work is fickle in its demands and expectations. Physicians – both individually and collectively – have occasionally wavered. But the viability of medicine as a true profession demands that we continuously strive to focus on the principles of our profession.
The pressures on the physician-patient relationship come from many different places. Unfortunately, it has even occasionally been challenged by our partners in health care – hospitals. Take the case of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center Staff vs. Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. It took 14 months, but the Minnesota Supreme Court finally came to the right conclusion in the case and recognized the unique and legally protected role that hospital medical staffs play in ensuring the quality of medical care delivered to hospital patients.
The MMA plays a critical role in protecting the medical profession and patient care, as was well demonstrated by its active engagement in the Avera Marshall case. But challenges continue to surface – whether it is from government looking to gag physicians’ ability to talk about the safety of children in homes where a gun may be present; to health plans imposing prior authorization requirements that defy clinical rationale; to our employers or practices establishing productivity, referral or other policies; or to the media fanning vaccine safety fears.
The MMA will be examining these and other emerging challenges to the physician-patient relationship on Saturday, April 25, at its first-ever, day-long Health Policy Conference, convened by the MMA Policy Council. What forces are you experiencing that strain your relationship with patients? What more could the MMA be doing to preserve the trust relationship between patients and doctors?
The MMA is dedicated to combatting these threats to our profession. But we need your help to better understand what is happening in your community and in your practice and to help identify solutions.
As we saw in the Avera Marshall case, the MMA can and does make a difference in protecting physicians’ ability to independently protect the interests of patient care.
Join us on April 25 to continue to support our profession and our unique and privileged role in caring for patients.
Ernest Lampe, MD, is chair of the MMA’s Policy Council.