Healers, Leaders and Partners: How Physicians Can Transform The Health Care System

Most people with an investment in the health care industry (i.e., everyone) can agree that the current system is flawed. Jack Cochran, M.D., FACS, executive director of the Permanente Federation (which is part of Kaiser Permanente) holds this same view, and believes there is a key to reversing the crisis: physicians.

Cochran’s new book, The Doctor Crisis: How Physicians Can, and Must, Lead the Way to Better Health Care, dissects the administrative, financial and regulatory barriers preventing today’s physicians from “putting their patients first at every step in the care process every time.” These barriers lead to alarming levels of dissatisfaction and burnout among U.S. doctors.

To the dissatisfied and burned out – and the patients who wind up under their care – Cochran offers the idea of the Learning Coalition, which he defines as an organic gathering of people and organizations engaged in health care today.

The Learning Coalition includes educational gatherings convened by organizations like ACHP, to which Cochran refers. ACHP facilitates dialogue among our member plans to share best practices and address some of health care’s toughest challenges.

Cochran argues that there is a divide in health care between organizations that are charting the path forward and those that are clinging to the status quo. The key to energizing physicians everywhere is harnessing their power as healers, leaders and partners.

The Doctor Crisis discusses how ACHP member HealthPartners has relied on physician leaders to research and confront health care disparities in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where it has been a part of the community for 57 years. Since 2001, when it formed a cross-cultural task force in pursuit of equitable care, the plan has facilitated ongoing communication between its providers and its culturally-diverse patient population to identify gaps in care and test strategies to address them.

Teams of HealthPartners clinicians have met with community leaders to share ideas for improving care – from vouchers for transportation to doctors’ appointments to mammography information sessions for Somali immigrant women. Each improvement points to the urgent need to strengthen the role of the physician.

The book, co-authored by writer Charles Kenney, echoes the priorities of local, nonprofit community plans: bettering health care at a grassroots level by partnering with and supporting physicians to become accountable, effective leaders. Physician leaders like the ones Cochran trains will build a health system that is safe, equitable, accessible and affordable.

At community health plans, the work is underway andnd the cause is urgent: Empowering physicians means freeing them to put their patients first.

Sophie Schwadron