A friend of mine once said, “The only thing that likes change is a 6-month-old baby with a dirty diaper.” That friend is Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, a former FDA Commission and Director of the National Cancer Institute. Andy knows a thing or two about being a “change agent.”
Another friend of mine said, “Real change requires real change.” That friend is Newt Gingrich. He too knows a thing or two about leading transformation. As the founder of the Center for Health Transformation, he helped advance ideas including health information technology and electronic medical records to create an individually-centered healthcare system.
Newt also lead a virtual revolution in the early 1990’s with his “Contract with America” campaign which ushered in one of the largest freshman classes of Congress. Changing “business as usual” in the Washington proved to be a very tough.
So why is change so difficult?
First of all, it is so much easier to say “no” than to embrace new ideas. The bolder the idea, the easier it is to say no.
As Dr. von Eschenbach said, no one really likes change. So, bold ideas like transforming our healthcare system usually end up resulting in some minor tweaks of our broken system rather than wholesale change. Let’s look more carefully at our healthcare system as an example.
Most of us think American medical care is “the best in the world.” But when ranked with other countries, our healthcare system is right in the middle of the pack of industrialized nations. Our health outcomes are marginal at best. Plus, our healthcare system is the costliest on the planet. No one even comes close.
When proposals are offered to engage in conversations around big, bold, innovative ideas, we rarely embrace change. Take ObamaCare. Our nation had a historic opportunity to fundamentally change our current system of healthcare and how it is financed.
But, we didn’t.
We did nothing to help us reduce the cost of healthcare in America. We tinkered around the edges to and offered coverage to millions more Americans – those with pre-existing conditions, the working poor, those with expensive medical conditions who might hit the limits of their health insurance policy. But we did nothing to really cease escalating healthcare costs that impact all of us.
States also have found it easier to accept the status quo than to embrace change. A proposal that would bring billions in healthcare savings to Georgia and Florida’s healthcare costs for state employees and Medicaid patients is currently now before those state Legislatures.
But trial lawyers and other special interests are trying to raise fears that change is too difficult to embrace. The proposed Patients’ Compensation System would create a no-fault, administrative system whereby no doctor, hospital or medical provider would ever be sued again. Instead, if a patient was harmed, he or she would file a claim with a panel of healthcare experts. If the panel found an avoidable “medical injury” had occurred, the patient would be compensated.
The proposal is a bold idea because it is a complete replacement of our medical malpractice system which purports to offer access to justice; but data proves otherwise.
Dr. Joana Shepherd-Bailey at Emory University released a study last fall that fewer than 3 percent of injured patients with avoidable medical injuries receive any compensation for their injuries. Additionally, her research shows that minorities, the poor, and women are the least likely to be compensated for medical errors. Our medical litigation system therefore provides health justice for only 3 percent while denying it for 97 percent of those harmed.
And, to make matters worse, physicians order all kinds of unnecessary tests and procedures just to avoid being sued. The annual cost of defensive medicine in Georgia is $14 billion including nearly $2 billion in Georgia taxpayer funds (Medicaid and State Health Benefit Plan).
So the current medical malpractice litigation system is broken. Those who profit from the current system (lawyers on both sides of the litigation system and medical liability insurance companies) are the ones opposing the creation of a big, bold, innovative system. The proposed Patients’ Compensation System would eliminate bogus, frivolous lawsuits, improve patient safety, reduce healthcare costs and compensate all legitimate medical errors.
But it’s easier to say no than it is to embrace big, bold, innovative solutions.