ISM (Institute of Science in Medicine) and their Australian "mini-me", FoSiM (Friends of Science in Medicine), are advocating a rather extreme version of Healthcare reform:
Medicalisation of all Healthcare, under the guise of advancing "Science in Medicine".These extreme views are published in an ISM Policy paper on the Licensing of non-Medical Healthcare practitioners. They advocate changing world-wide statues/regulation to only allow "science-based" Healthcare (code for Only Medical Care) and finish with:
Unscientific practices in health care should further be targets of aggressive prosecution by regulatory authorities. [italics added]They don't just want to wind the clock back to The Grand Old Days of the Fifties, but a whole Century. The authority they cite is the 1910 Carnegie Foundation report on Medical Education by Flexner.
Flexner tossed around a bunch of concepts, many more than the State Regulation of Medicine and Medical Schools on which ISM/FoSiM base their calls for increased Healthcare Regulation, a.k.a. "Science in Medicine", as the definitive solution to all the ills of all Healthcare Systems in the world.
In the second half of this piece, Flexner's original thesis and concepts are examined - and not wholly surprisingly they support the opposite position of ISM/FoSiM.
Firstly, What do the world's best experts in Healthcare Reform identify as the local and/or common challenges to Healthcare?
And, How do the proposals of ISM/FoSiM address these Medical Millennium Challenges?
This is what he has to say on the Challenges facing Healthcare around the world:
JAMES: Another point is that we’re getting exactly what we pay for. We tend to pay for procedures and rescue care, so we get lots of procedures and lots of rescue care. This is a key factor.
Another thing you need to know is that other countries have exactly the same problems. So don’t look for solutions in Europe. Don’t look for solutions in Canada.
I get a ton of those guys coming through visiting to see how care’s delivered in Utah, believe it or not, because they face exactly the same problems.
There’s a standard working list of the top five problems within health care, and nobody’s solved them.
Travel the world and it’s the same list of five things:
1. The first problem is variation in care on a geographic basis.
It’s so high that it’s impossible that all Americans are getting good care, even with full access.
2. The second biggest problem is high rates of care directly judged to be inappropriate.
This is where the medical risk treatment outweighed any potential benefit to the patient and we did it anyway . . . usually in a rescue setting.
3. The third problem is unacceptable rates of care-associated injury and death.
This is where the care delivered actively killed somebody, whose death was judged to be preventable upon review.
4. The fourth problem is that the system does it right only 55 percent of the time.
There are things that we know for a fact should be done every time but the system does right only 55 percent of the time.
Now, that’s better than zero, but it’s not nearly 95 percent or 98 percent, where it ought to be.
5. And the last one is that there’s at least 50 percent waste in the system.
This is non- value-adding from a patient’s perspective, and that’s where the opportunity exists.
From the hard-data evidence presented by Dr James based on more than 3 decades of successful Healthcare Reform, we know:
- The ISM/FoSiM proposals address the least important, least useful areas of change.
- Addressing Lifestyle Issues and Environment/Public Health would have six times the impact of attempting to improve "Health Care Delivery" through more "Science".
- Even then, ISM/FoSiM are either vague or silent on just what benefits their proposals, if adopted, can deliver. If they want to turn Healthcare around the world inside out, with considerable disruption, cost and upheaval, then they need to first inform us of the exact benefits we can expect.
- The ISM/FoSiM proposals are irrelevant to the common "Top 5" Challenges faced by Healthcare Systems around the world: None benefit from more "Science", they are all about Quality of Care and Effectiveness of Delivery and Implementation.
ISM/FoSiM consistently demand high-quality Evidence and rigorous Science from those in its sights, yet fail to apply the Scientific Method and their Rules of Evidence to their own proposals and assertions.
- All successful and effective Healthcare Reform, since and including Flexner, has been Patient-centric. The ISM/FoSiM proposals aren't just wrong, but exactly the opposite of what is documented to have worked. Practitioner- and Profession-centric reforms, such as "More Science in Medicine" do not deliver better outcomes for Patients.
To be consistent and credible, ISM/FoSiM must:
- Meet the same standards of "Evidence", Research and adherence to the Scientific Method as they demand of others.
- Demonstrate and Quantify how more "Science" will improve Quality of Care, Patient Safety, Equity of Access and Systemic Waste and Cost-Effectiveness issues identified as "Top 5" Healthcare Reform Challenges by the leading experts in the field.
- First define their own "Top 5" Healthcare Challenges, and
- provide research backed by verifiable, hard-data on the Efficacy of their own proposals, their own favourite criticism of non-Medical Healthcare.
The Flexner report doesn't just say "Regulation and Licensing is necessary" as ISM/FoSiM seems to think, it also says many things still relevant today:
- it asks for common standards and basic clinical education with laboratory practice,
- suggests the 'Best Practices' as used by the Europeans,
- says that Medicine is a Performance Discipline [my words] - that Theory and Practice/Experience together are needed by competent Professionals ("Head and Hands"),
- that Medicine is not primarily a commercial enterprise, but has a very large "Public Service" component, with a Duty of Care not just to individuals treated, but the larger Community,
- and explicitly recognises "all medical sects", and they be based on good clinical education.
- As part of good Professional conduct, the systematic elimination of Known Errors, Faults and Failures, ("To Err is Human", but repeating preventable mistakes is malpractice of the highest order) and
- From the Flexner principle of "licenses bear a uniform value":
- Continuing certification retesting of all license holders, not a lifetime grant of license.
- the adoption of practices that have been demonstrated to have value in assuring Professional competence and skills/knowledge currency at every point in time for all license holders. From Aviation, we know these techniques work:
- Frequent (2 monthly) "Check Pilot" assessment of the in-situ performance of every Practitioner,
- Simulator checks of "worst-case" situations. (Quarterly)
In conclusion, Flexner talks of Duties, Ethics and the need of the Medical Profession to guard against the corrupting effects of commerce. Exactly the same "Conflict of Interest" message that Arnold Relman and Marcia Angell started writing about in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980.
Like the army, the police, or the social worker, the medical profession is supported for a benign, not a selfish, for a protective, not an exploiting, purpose.It's fitting to end with a quote from Arnold Relman ("A Drumbeat on Profit Takers"):
The knell of the exploiting doctor has been sounded, just as the day of the freebooter and the soldier of fortune has passed away.
“It’s clear that if we go on practicing medicine the way we are now, we’re headed for disaster.”If the things the best and brightest minds in the world of Medical Science are writing, researching and talking about, and have been doing so for 3 decades, are completely different to what ISM/FoSiM started advocating in 2009, then who should we give credence to?
My vote goes to the existing experts who can provide hard-data to back their stories, not mere puffery, exaggeration and "spin" as offered by ISM/FoSiM.