Letter to the Editor: The relationship between patients and their doctors

Today, we publish the second installment of the founding editor’s manifesto and our invitation to state and local leaders to bring their voices to public debates, vote, and debate, as we seek more support in the public discourse of issues related to data and science.

One of the findings of this upcoming national survey of women’s health — with healthy parent population at 122,000 women — is that we must strive for greater gender parity and women’s voices in our healthcare system.

Surveyed women, overwhelmingly, believe the physician should have a different role and greater visibility to the public. Women are more likely than men to report that the physician is sometimes appropriate to voice support or caution on public policy issues like immunizations, and 67 percent of the women believe that supporting local public health departments with good data is more important than listening to their personal medical recommendations, compared to 43 percent of men.

We feel strongly that as a community, we have more urgent ways to connect with our public health agencies than listening to the recommendations of our physicians. As the father of an autistic child, I know the true meaning of “support,” and I know first-hand what happens when an obstetrician and gynecologist does not support the public policy and public health initiatives needed to keep children with autism safe. Instead, they make our children feel like third-class citizens.

This lack of full patient data, or even an honest, open process for collecting it, is allowed. Under the Affordable Care Act, any individual physician will now be required to provide patient data to state Medicaid agencies, and even more worrisome, it is voluntary. Medical insurers have now made requirements on hospitals, post-acute facilities, and government facilities like nursing homes. As public healthcare transitions and personal healthcare decisions begin to happen earlier in a patient’s lifetime, we should not weaken our abilities to report and identify true preventable health hazards.

The willingness to work together to improve patient experiences and data collection across the country, while providing our community with more respectful resources that promote an educated community is at the heart of what we as community leaders aspire to achieve. Now is the time for Erin O’Toole to step up and start drawing the line on this public health issue.

Succeeding in community leadership requires a willingness to listen to and consider other voices. Our nation’s public health is at risk of becoming lost in the complexities of the issue that continue to divide us as a community. When full data and support of key public health campaigns like immunizations is necessary, we need to shift our environment so that we prioritize constructive, inclusive relationships within our community to build a vibrant future for all of our patients.

Please visit our collaboration page: stepuptogether.org/


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