Physician leaders meet, set plans to address “crisis” in doctor-patient relationship

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Group establishes Galen Doctors Forum to coordinate efforts

Washington, D.C., March 17, 2017 — Physician leaders and patient advocates met yesterday in a forum organized by the Galen Institute to raise awareness of what some called a “crisis” of unprecedented interference blocking doctors from being able to prescribe the treatments they believe are best for their patients. During the conference in Washington, D.C., they heard presentations by fellow physicians and by a noted patient representative on how cost-cutting measures by third-party payers in both private and government health care insurance plans are interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. Regulatory policies in government and cost-cutting measures in private plans are overwhelming doctors with paperwork and forcing them to go through multiple rounds of negotiations to justify their prescribing decisions to provide what they believe is the best care for their patients.

Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner commented, “As I travel the country, I have become increasingly concerned as doctors say that their hands are being tied by bureaucrats who second-guess their clinical decisions. At this critical moment in the health care debate, I believe policymakers need to hear the physician point of view.” She noted that, typically, physicians are so busy caring for patients that they do not have much opportunity to take part in discussions of health care policy. “For this reason, we decided to bring this group together to begin a national conversation about this crisis in the medical profession, to ensure that policymakers and patients alike understand the barriers doctors are facing as they attempt to deliver the best care possible to their patients.”

The keynote speaker at the conference, Dr. Seth Baum, said that it is vital that patients become aware that their physicians face great difficulty in prescribing the best innovative treatments for them. “Patients should not have to wonder who is deciding which medicines they take, their doctor, or their insurer,” Dr. Baum said. “In my case, I am forced to complete intricate, 17-page documents so that insurers will allow my patients access to lifesaving new cholesterol medications, only to see them turned down, repeatedly.” He pointed to “fail first” policies, which require doctors to prescribe older, cheaper medicines for patients until those patients “fail” on those drugs, before being allowed to prescribe breakthrough treatments that would be more effective. “These decisions are best made between doctor and patient, not by bureaucrats,” he added. “Insurance should be there to take the worry out of healthcare, not tie doctors and patients up in red tape.”

Another speaker at the conference, Dr. Hal Scherz, a pediatric urologist, said that “Third-party interference has become endemic in the U.S. health care system, and is increasingly destructive to the patient-physician relationship. A recent survey by the Physician’s Foundation found that 53.9% of physicians surveyed claim that some of their decisions are compromised due to their current level of clinical autonomy. I am glad to take part in this discussion, and hope it will increase public awareness of the restrictions doctors encounter in their daily work.”

Meeting participants said that they were energized by the discussion, and pledged to continue to share experiences and ideas under the umbrella of a new Galen project, the Galen Doctors Forum. “We are excited to be able to provide this forum for physicians from a wide array of disciplines and geographical regions – people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to work together to improve conditions for current and future doctors who want only to practice medicine to the best of their ability,” Ms. Turner said. “We heard from many doctors who hope to join our discussion and be part of our efforts going forward. We plan to broaden our reach to develop policy recommendations and to educate the public on the need to put the doctor-patient relationship back at the center of the American health care system.”

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