Editor's Note: The reaction by Modern Physician readers to the hospital lobby's agreement with the White House to restrict physician ownership of hospitals was fast and highly opinionated. Below is a sample of reader letters submitted in reaction to the Top Story in our July 13 issue, “Agreement threatens to strangle physician-owned hospitals.”
Ignoring physicians in reform debate is a huge mistake
The hospitals and White House making deals ignoring the physician group will not achieve the goal of the reform. In fact so many physicians are fed up with this reform and lack of empathy for physicians will make them retire early or seek alternative income sources outside of the medical field. What good is it if the hospitals and White House strike a deal but there aren't enough physicians to provide service? This reform is sure to backfire unless physicians' concerns are addressed fairly.
Ganta Sashidar, M.D.Austin (Texas) Institute of Bariatrics and Laparoscopy
Restricting physician ownership of hospitals would be idiotic. Physician specialty hospitals are probably the most cost-effective providers in the industry and offer the highest quality care.
Laura CarabelloPrincipalCPR Strategic Marketing CommunicationsElmwood Park, N.J.
I read with great interest your article on the likely restrictions on ownership of hospitals by physicians. My feelings in the matter are pithy and short: It's about time.
Physicians as a group need to sit down and really think about the incentives in our work. We have in the past insisted that gifts from pharmaceutical companies do not affect our prescribing habits—when the data show clearly that they do—and that they skew our prescribing toward the last company that gave us a gift, even one of minimal value such as a pen or a pad.
Equivalent data show that when physicians own healthcare facilities (and thus have a financial interest in seeing the facility do well), they will use them more. They will err on the side of using the facility rather than not using it in edge cases; they will change the standard of their practice to require the increased use of whatever the facility is—a laboratory, an MRI center or, of course, a hospital.
This conflict of interest is entirely against the public interest. And now that the public is starting to pay attention to where their interest lies, we are increasingly finding ourselves on the wrong side. We're on the side of more for us, and not on the side of caring for the patient with scientific dispassion and human compassion. And people are rightly beginning to doubt our word when we say that we have their best interests at heart, really.
Physicians have a vast store of respect built up over centuries of caring for patients. Even now, while that reserve is running out, it is still significant. People want to believe that their doctor will care for them to the best of their ability, and not care just a bit more for his or her pocketbook. We must earn that respect by acting the way they think we do—in their best interests. If we do not take up this challenge, individually and collectively, we risk being cast into the same pit where financiers and stockbrokers now find themselves, by a public tired of being swindled out of their money by people who approached in the guise of trust.
Thomas A. Amoroso, M.D.Staff physicianEmergency medicine Quincy (Mass.) Medical Center Submit a letter to the Modern Physician Reader Blog. Please include your name, title, company and hometown. Modern Physician reserves the right to edit all submissions.
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