Tag: Patient Advisory Committee

Why standards matter

Posted January 24, 2023

As medicine becomes politicized, trust in our physicians matters more than ever. High professional standards help them earn it.

“How can I find a doctor I can trust?” I keep hearing this question—from those feeling confused about a vaccination decision to those looking for an ob/gyn who shares their personal values. There’s unprecedented angst, uncertainty, and mistrust. During two decades as a patient and citizen advocate, I’ve encountered the mistrust that arises when systems that are supposed to protect us cause harm. I’ve learned that trust is an asset our health system cannot do without. It is at the heart of our relationships with our physicians and care teams and an essential foundation for the institution of medicine. Yet as our social fabric continues to fray, even the most trusted relationships come under strain. Our relationships with our physicians feel more fragile when the practice of medicine is politicized, and misinformation compounds our uncertainty and confusion about our health choices. 

As an independent volunteer public (non-physician) member of the Board of Directors of ABMS (the American Board of Medical Specialties), a nonprofit organization that oversees the standards for physician certification across 24 medical specialties (the American Osteopathic Association is another), I have a window into what happens inside the network of institutions that oversee the practice of medicine in the United States. The medical profession is dealing with its own trust challenges as it negotiates the tensions between freedom, regulation, and professionalism. In recent months, certifying boards have taken further steps to uphold their accountability by addressing unprofessional behavior and pledging to withdraw or deny certification to physicians who publicly share information that is directly contrary to the prevailing medical evidence.

While some physicians are uniting to defend their ability to take care of their patients and protect those patients’ reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, others are asserting a questionable freedom to prescribe unproven treatments or disseminate misinformation that leads to medical harm or death. Some physicians are rejecting the institutions that enact and enforce standards of performance and conduct and oversee physicians’ accountability to the public. Efforts by these institutions to overcome mistrust should be welcomed. Self-regulation is a privilege that makes physicians accountable to their peers and importantly, the public. It is grounded in a set of agreed-upon standards and behaviors based on a common set of values and ethical commitments. It represents a social contract between physicians and the community that includes a promise to put the interests of patients first. 

But when mistrust in institutions manifests itself as legislative interference in that professional self-regulation, the politicization of the practice of medicine becomes an assault on medicine itself. The assault is already happening in states where state legislatures have told the state boards that license and regulate physicians that they may not take disciplinary action against physicians who disseminate misinformation or disinformation about COVID-19, vaccination, or scientifically valid treatments. The effects are harmful to physicians, nurses, and patients alike. In some states, physicians no longer have the freedom to provide the care they are trained to provide.

As patients, we are left wondering who we can turn to as trusted navigators as we make sense of our medical choices. As medicine becomes politicized, the answer to that initial question “How can I find a doctor I can trust?” is not as simple as reading patient reviews or going to a top-rated hospital. It’s important to know how to recognize a physician who has gone through rigorous and objective assessment of their knowledge, skills, judgment, and competencies.

The fourteen years I spent with the nonprofit Consumer Reports taught me to recognize a rigorous testing process and the ways it helps to build trust. That rigor is critical for the process of physician board certification. I’ve been reassured to find it at the American Board of Medical Specialties and its member boards: the research underlying every step, the collaborative process of standard-setting, the scientific methods that inform assessments, the secure examinations, the evaluation of ethics and professionalism, the verification that a physician is clear of any professional wrongdoing, the requirement to contribute to improving health and health care, and the cycles of continuing certification to stay current and maintain competency throughout a physician’s career. As a result, specialty board certification is one of the strongest signals that we can trust our physician. It represents a commitment to both learning and accountability.

Patients choosing a physician for themselves or loved ones would be wise to check online if a physician is currently board-certified. But if we want to help build a culture of trust in medicine, based on facts and not ideology, there are things we need to do as citizens to push back against the assault on the medical profession as well. We can communicate our support to elected representatives and candidates who oppose legislative interference in the practice of medicine and its self-regulation. As civic-minded community members, we can ask to be appointed as “public members” of the state boards that regulate medical practice or join a local hospital board as an advocate for patient safety and physician wellbeing. We can run for school boards where we can participate as champions of science education and children’s health. Civic engagement is as critical for building trust in medicine as it is for strengthening our democracy.

This blog was originally posted by Civic Health Partners on January 19, 2023, and has been syndicated with permission.

Tara Montgomery is Founder & Principal of Civic Health Partners, an independent coaching and consulting practice that helps leaders reflect on trust and develop public engagement strategies that are worthy of trust. She is a volunteer Public Member of the Board of Directors of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Tara serves on our Patient Advisory Committee which provides advice on how to educate and engage patients and caregivers about trust in health care.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Tara Montgomery

Posted October 11, 2021

Tara Montgomery is a trusted change leadership advisor and strategist who strives to connect the dots between healthy people and healthy democracies, bringing consumer and citizen perspectives to conversations about culture change in health care and other complex systems. Tara is driven by optimism about the power of collaboration to solve the world’s most challenging problems, having spent over two decades convening and partnering with US, UK, and international academic, cultural, scientific, and nonprofit institutions and leading strategic initiatives to advance public health, education, corporate social responsibility, and social change.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Dave Ellis

Posted October 11, 2021

Dave Ellis is a national leader in providing trainings and facilitating conversations on the lasting impacts of ACEs and generational trauma. He shares his expertise with the State of New Jersey and coordinates statewide work related to ACE’s.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Claire Sachs

Posted September 09, 2021

Claire is a federal policy analyst and patient advocacy blogger whose health history goes back to the early 1980s. Since then, she has managed a raft of serious conditions, both acute and chronic. She has also been a caregiver for both chronically ill and terminally ill family members. A few years ago, she realized that her experience with healthcare could be used to help patients, so she started a blog and started looking for ways to use her skills to make positive changes to the healthcare ecosystem. Claire has a BA in Government from Smith College and an MA in Political Management from George Washington University.

You can reach Claire Sach’s blog here.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Alma McCormick

Posted September 09, 2021

Alma McCormick is a member of the Crow Nation and the Executive Director of Messengers for Health, a Crow Indian 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization located on the Crow reservation in Montana.  Alma is a leader and a community activist for improved health and wellness amongst her people.  Her educational background is in Community Health and she furthered her education receiving a Bachelor’s of Science in Health and Wellness at the Montana State University-Billings. She has been actively involved in cancer awareness outreach and advocacy amongst Native American women in Montana since 1996. She has extensive experience in conducting community-based participatory research projects addressing various health needs of the Crow people while working in partnership with Montana State University-Bozeman. She has traveled nationwide to present at health conferences to share the program’s successes. She has also co-authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles. Alma’s passion for her work in community outreach stems from her personal experience of losing a young twin daughter to neuroblastoma cancer in 1985.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Janice Tufte

Posted July 07, 2021

Janice Tufte resides in Seattle and is a patient collaborator involved with health systems research, evidence production, clinical practice quality improvement and human readable digital informed knowledge generation. She recently co-authored a paper currently under review with the Journal of Health Design that discusses the importance of collectively designing research and is working with AcademyHealth’s Paradigm Project in developing a new research prototype.  Learn more about Janice at www.janicetufte.com.

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Susan Perez

Posted July 07, 2021

Susan Perez’s research focuses on understanding consumers’ decision-making processes in order to develop healthcare policies, information, and resources to promote high value decisions. Dr. Perez has conducted studies that classified approaches to processing Internet health information among vulnerable populations; addressed statewide overuse of healthcare services; identified approaches for patients and providers to discuss the cost of care; developed a statewide campaign to address variation in C-section rates by working with both patients and hospitals; and illuminated consumers’ views of cost sharing, quality and network choice. Prior to joining the faculty at the California State University, Sacramento Department of Public Health, Dr. Perez completed a postdoctoral fellowship in quality, safety, and comparative effectiveness research and earned a doctorate in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership program at the University of California, Davis. 

Patient Advocate Spotlight: Gwen Darien

Posted July 07, 2021

Gwen Darien is a longtime patient advocate who has played leadership roles in some of the country’s preeminent nonprofit organizations. As executive vice president for patient advocacy, engagement and education at the National Patient Advocate Foundation and the Patient Advocate Foundation, Gwen leads programs that link PAF’s direct patient services to NPAF initiatives to help ensure access to equitable, affordable, quality health care.

A three-time cancer survivor, Gwen came into cancer advocacy to change the experiences and outcomes for the patients who came after her and to change the public dialogue about cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Gwen serves on a wide range of program committees and workshop faculties. She is the Chair of PCORI’s Patient Engagement Advisory Panel and serves on the Board of Trustees of the USP. Gwen also writes about her experiences as an advocate and cancer survivor.