Doctors Can’t Be Cowboys Anymore

Worried about health care reform? Need a dose of inspiration? Do yourself a favor and read Atul Gawande’s Harvard Medial School commencement speech.

In comparison to all the politically charged rhetoric around “rationing” and health care reform, Gawande is refreshingly honest, in both his description of the problem and prescription. Here’s Gawande, laying the smack down:

Two million patients pick up infections in American hospitals, most because someone didn’t follow basic antiseptic precautions. Forty per cent of coronary-disease patients and sixty per cent of asthma patients receive incomplete or inappropriate care. And half of major surgical complications are avoidable with existing knowledge.

In other words, the medical profession is too complex for doctors to go it alone any longer. There is no room for cowboys. Doctors need to act in tandem with large teams – pit crews – to provide quality care.

Still, at the risk of being a bit obvious, this is an important but small part of the solution. When will the science of health care delivery catch up? When will we be able to capture the huge amount of patient data and analyze it to provide better care? Yes, doctors need to change the way they approach their profession. But this seems simple (or at least manageable) when compared to the administrative and political challenges involved in fundamentally changing the science of health care delivery itself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s