Radiology resident urges colleagues to participate in healthcare debate

May 12, 2010
Alexis Shively, DO

American writer Louis L’Amour once said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers.

American writer Louis L’Amour once said, “To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” What an applicable statement in the current situation that we face. A lot of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are griping about what is wrong with the healthcare system, and why they don’t like the healthcare bill recently signed into law by Congress and the president. Yet, very few of us are actually working to create a solution to the crisis.

I hope we all can agree the nation is facing a healthcare crisis. The statistics are alarming. In 2009, 46 million Americans were uninsured. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1993 found, “Controlling for other factors like race, age and income, the uninsured are 25% more likely to die than the insured.” In addition to the social issues, the economy is also affected. “The U.S. lost more than $200 billion in 2007 because of the poor health and shorter lifespan of the uninsured.”

To make matters worse, healthcare spending has skyrocketed. In 2009, the United States spent more than 15% of its GDP, or approximately $2 trillion on healthcare, nearly double what many other industrialized countries spend. Despite the expense, our country ranks average at best on many quality-of-care indicators including infant mortality. No matter what side of the political spectrum your beliefs lie on, I hope these statistics scare you. We took an oath to help our patients, and we are failing them.

Many of you will probably respond by saying, “I am just one physician. What can I do?” A lot. In fact, getting involved is probably the single most important thing you can do to help yourself, your patients, your profession, and your country. Organizations such as the American College of Radiology are only as strong as their members. For example, RADPAC is one of the largest health organization PACs in the country and yet only 8% of practicing radiologists contribute to it. Can you imagine the strength we would have on Capitol Hill if all of the radiologists in the country decided to get involved?

Your profession needs you. If we continue to stand idly by and just complain about our problems, the lawyers, pharmaceutical company executives, and whoever else will dictate healthcare policy. We can do better for ourselves and our patients. The bottom line is get involved early and often. This is certainly one situation where the old saying is true: actions speak louder than words.