January 25, 2016

 In The Messenger

‘Nothing short of an insurgency’: Patients and clinicians convene to turn the tide in health care
by Kim DiGioia, MSPH


It seems fitting that the first 2016 meeting of Right Care Alliance council members and conveners took place January 16-17, over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. Members from all 12 Councils, as well as budding Councils, Steering Committee Members from the Boston organizing process, and Lown Institute board members arrived barely knowing one another; each had a different vision of the Alliance’s mission. They left with a sense of solidarity and a clearer vision for the path forward.

Shannon Brownlee, MSc, senior vice president of the Lown Institute, set the stage for the weekend with these words: “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech helped crystalize the suffering and yearning of centuries, but it was built, idea by idea, with help from a wide circle of activists. You will be the crafters of a new vision for a better system. And you will have help from many others.”

Together, attendees made several crucial decisions. First, they decided to focus initial efforts of the Alliance on overuse, to use this issue as a way to open discussions within health care and with the public about the larger dysfunctions of health care. They crafted this rallying language to recruit new members to the cause:

Medical overuse and underuse are a threat to our individual health and the future of our nation. They waste resources and rob us of the chance to create healthy communities. The Right Care Alliance is a coalition of patients, health professionals, and the public working together to rebalance our health care system. Join us.
The Councils will use this language to help them meet their ambitious target for recruitment: 100 new members for each Council by the Lown Annual Conference, in April.

Attendees also decided to ensure the right care movement is more about the public than it is about health professionals. The Councils’ first step toward that goal will be to recruit patients and members of the public to every Council, to serve alongside health professionals.
Councils agreed to pursue two main projects in the coming months:

  1. Each Council will collect patient stories on overuse (and underuse). Some will be told by health care professionals, but as many as possible will be told by patients. The Lown Institute will create a “story bank” on the Right Care Alliance website. Alliance members can use these stories in teaching right care; stories will be available to the press for writing articles about overuse; and stories can be used in speeches by Alliance members.
  2. Councils also agree to create a list of the top 10 dos and don’ts in clinical practice for each specialty represented by a Council. These lists will be made public when most Councils have created them. Instructions for creating the lists will be available soon.

The weekend was full of hearty discussion, sobering stories, and inspiring revelations. Poppy Arford, a patient advocate from Maine, shared,

“There has never been a time in the past eight years when I was in a multi-stakeholder group and when a doctor spoke, the words that came out of his mouth were words that could have come out of mine.”
The consensus around how to create a better American health care system was remarkable: all agreed it must be co-produced by clinicians and the public, and that the process must begin with listening to the public and patients.

Vikas Saini, MD
, president of the Lown Institute, described the timeliness and necessity of this work in his opening remarks, “The ground is fertile, there is a yearning for serious change.” This was especially true among these inspired Alliance members; the zeal for change was palpable. Phil Caper, MD, shared his motivation for addressing the lamentable status quo:

“More and more doctors are employees of a business. The mission of business: create wealth for its owners. We are healers. We have a different mission.”
This audacious group will build on the weekend’s momentum and take action truly to move the needle toward better health care. It won’t be easy – indeed, “it will take nothing short of an insurgency,” said Brandon Combs, MD, member of the Health Care Education Council. But, we believe that “a system that is safe, effective, affordable, and just” is simply imperative.
Learn more about the work of the Right Care Alliance at www.rightcarealliance.org.


We want to hear from you! Tell us about what you’re doing to advance right care. Email your stories to kdigioia@lowninstitute.org.

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