Colorado Medical Society

Physicians creating a loud, clear voice in health care reform

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 01:15 PM

Chet Seward, Senior Director Health Care Policy

What if there was a way to get all 11,000 Colorado physicians together and let them quickly hash out one of the toughest questions in health care? And what if it could occur at a time and place that was convenient for everyone, and in a way that ensured each doctor had an equal voice?

It sounds far-fetched. But a new project spearheaded by a Colorado physician is making that scenario possible online – and you’re invited to join the conversation. At issue: how to increase coverage for Coloradans if the U.S. Supreme Court throws out some or all of the Affordable Care Act.

“I felt like one physician doesn’t have a strong voice,” said Karen Polsky, MD, who practices internal medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital and is leading the online project. “But if we got our voices together and found common ground, we could have a loud, clear voice in health care reform.”

Polsky is conducting the project as part of the Advanced Physician Leadership Program, a joint project of the Colorado Medical Society and the Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership that is funded by The Colorado Trust.

Her goal is to engage physicians and to raise awareness. It’s particularly timely because the Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision this month. And, Polsky said, physicians are uniquely positioned to take the lead on these issues because polls show physicians enjoy a high level of trust among the general public.

“This is the crossroads in health care. Colorado and Colorado physicians are going to have to address these issues,” she added. “It’s important to show patients, legislators and health care experts that physicians care, and that we should have a voice in this.”

All CMS members should have already received a customized email from CMS inviting you to participate in the online collaboration project. If you haven’t received an email, or can’t find it, please email with the words “join health care conversation” in the subject line.

The project uses a collaborative tool called Codigital, which was developed by a company of the same name that Polsky’s husband, James Carr, co-founded.

The tool allows large numbers of people to submit succinct ideas (users are limited to 275 characters per idea). Other users may then rank the ideas, suggest gradual edits and help evolve or improve the ideas by voting on suggested edits. The ideas are anonymous, and the system is set up to ensure every idea gets voted on – not just those that appear toward the top of the rankings.

“This can be very dynamic,” Carr said. “People have described it as an interactive experience similar to all being in the same room, but without the loud voices dominating. And you’re voting on the idea on its merits – without names attached to it – so there isn’t the bias you might otherwise see.”

So far, more than 100 physicians have submitted ideas for what Colorado could do to increase coverage. The ideas have ranged from reducing the number of or standardizing health plans to incentivizing physician quality and healthy behaviors, cost transparency and standardizing claims processing. There also have been different views expressed as to whether Colorado should push for an individual mandate.

“As physicians, we care. I think that’s getting lost a bit,” said Polsky, who as the former owner of urgent care clinics often saw patients who had reached a crisis point because they didn’t have insurance and hadn’t received the continuity of care they needed.

“My dream would be for us to say ‘11,000 practicing physicians in Colorado got together, and this is what we feel.’ We care, and this is what’s important to Colorado.”