The future of who gets a voice is up for grabs; will the decision makers in the new healthcare landscape be hospital administrators, CEOs, and boards of directors focused on the bottom line, or frontline providers who can advocate on behalf of themselves and their patients? Major changes in healthcare have been on the horizon for some time now and residents have stepped up to ensure they are part of the conversation about the future of medicine.
We are in the midst of a transformation of the US healthcare system that will fundamentally change the way we practice medicine. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the new emphasis on quality of care and preventable errors, and the race to form Accountable Care Organizations, there are no jobs in healthcare that are not going to be shifting or responding to those pressures in some way.
At the same time, there are interest groups vying for control of Americans’ insurance dollars, and financial and social agendas that are influencing patients’ access to care.
While many people associate CIR primarily with negotiating salaries and benefits, the union’s role has historically extended beyond the negotiating table. CIR leaders are finding innovative strategies to make resident voices more prominent. From Quality Improvement conferences, to resident-run Patient Care Funds, to Women in Medicine community building events, residents at CIR hospitals are reshaping the national conversation about medicine.
In Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, you can find CIR residents speaking out for paid sick day laws. Residents in California have taken up the fight against Proposition 46, a ballot measure that could increase medical malpractice costs by as much as 25 percent and requires random drug testing of doctors. As CIR and a chorus of physician organizations and healthcare advocates have shown, the measure could increase state and local government health care costs by several hundred million dollars a year. As more and more of our issues end up in the political arena,
CIR members are not willing to sit idly by as others make decisions that impact both physicians and our patients.
It is now more important than ever that resident voices be heard. Although there are legal, budgetary and cultural challenges facing residents in efforts to drive change, we have already begun to see our efforts bear fruit. Our QI initiatives have increased transparency and error-reporting, along with other measurable outcomes. We were part of a labor-community coalition that fought to save Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. The relationships we’ve forged with elected officials have helped us launch successful community health projects like the Family Health Challenge in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and to gain headway in contract negotiations and legislative campaigns around the country.
Residents are the frontline providers who are tipping the scales of power to ensure that the transformation of the healthcare system is patient-focused. If you’ve ever thought about getting more involved in QI, Women in Medicine or political issues, now is the time. There are initiatives, events, campaigns taking place across the country in every region, and everyone has the opportunity to speak up and make their voices count to ensure that we are the ones helping to shape the new healthcare landscape.