It would be hard to find two groups that need each other more than doctors and health systems. Perhaps their mutual dependence is what makes it so difficult for the two sides to accept their shared reliance.
The relationship must be acknowledged, however, if healthcare organizations are going to respond to the demands of empowered patients armed with reams of information and unwilling to settle for limitations on choice.
For medical organizations, the challenge comes down to restoring the trust that often was sacrificed in the late '80s and '90s when doctors, hospitals and insurers spent an inordinate amount of time trying to stick it to other players in the industry.
Today, savvy organizations are moving beyond the sins of the past. They're driven by findings such as Harvard University's recent report that more than half of U.S. physicians believe their ability to deliver quality healthcare to patients has deteriorated in the past five years.
This year, Modern Physician has highlighted several organizations committed to ending the dysfunctional alliances of the past. Instead of following the disastrous path of buying medical practices, Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare, for example, is using technology to launch a "virtual group practice" to bring doctors into the system.
Vassar Brothers Hospital, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is following a different technology strategy. It's connecting physicians and manufacturers with products entering Phase III clinical trials, securing new drugs for patients and keeping the hospital in the forefront of both research and clinical service.
SSM Health Care of Oklahoma is involving its physician leaders in problem-solving activities that help them recognize that their fate is tied to the system's future.
These are just a few of the forerunners. Whatever the strategy, doctors and hospitals need to find ways to work collaboratively.