The “dysfunctional” U.S. health system may be working to improve hospital and payer bottom lines, but it’s not working as intended for patients or the doctors that care for them, the head of the country’s largest physician organization said.
Barbara McAneny, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, said at the group’s interim meeting that the healthcare system “often gets in the way of actual healthcare.” This is evident in payer issues, such as restrictive prior authorization, and the industry’s ongoing appetite for consolidation, she said.
“I feel a sense of urgency as we are witness to greater concentration of wealth and power in the hands of ever-larger corporations, with more and more middlemen pulling down large salaries while our patients go broke and physician practices struggle to survive,” she said.
McAneny spoke at the AMA’s interim meeting, where its delegates gathered to weigh in on policies across a diverse number of subjects, including immigration, harassment and medical aid-in-dying.
The AMA has the power to play a role in addressing the social determinants of health, and that includes trauma related to harassment, immigration status and hot-button political topics like gun violence, McAneny said.
“The AMA steps in where others fear to tread,” she said.
Doing so is why AMA played a key role in pushing against planned insurance mega-mergers between Anthem and Cigna and Aetna and Humana, and in unsuccessfully lobbying for the Department of Justice to block the deal between CVS Health and Aetna, she said.
James Madara, M.D., the AMA’s executive vice president and CEO, highlighted how the company’s efforts to address dysfunction extend to the technology space in his speech at the meeting. It’s crucial that the AMA strive for a balance in what best serves today’s physicians while setting them up to effectively meet the needs of tomorrow.
The group issued a Digital Health Implementation Playbook last month, and Madara said that guide is a step toward ensuring that new technology works for physicians, allowing it to be adopted more easily and quickly.
“Physicians are optimistic about the potential of digital innovations to benefit patients and improve healthcare, but adoption can be challenging,” Madara said. “That’s why new solutions must facilitate, not complicate, medical practice.”
The AMA is also working on projects to simplify the use of advanced payment models, which require substantial data entry and may require providers to take on more risk than they feel comfortable with, Madara said.
Through its Integrated Health Model Initiative—which launched at last year’s interim meeting—the AMA is building a data infrastructure that can ease these burdens and provide the most valuable information to doctors, he said.
That kind of “disruptive thinking” is crucial to moving new innovations forward, Madara said.
Videos of McAneny’s and Madara’s full speeches are embedded below: