By Sheldon M. Retchin, MD, Vice President for Health Sciences, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Chief Executive Officer, VCU Health System
As our nation ponders different models of health care to stem the rising tide of costs, high deductible plans have become increasingly popular instruments for engaging consumers in their own care decisions. With the availability of health care information on the rise and the number of public websites devoted to provider reports growing rapidly, consumerism for health care choice is no longer an empty pipe dream.
Patients are being rapidly transformed into active consumers, and they are seeking answers to thorny questions about the value and quality of care. If this consumer engagement is here to stay, it may well end up as a unique feature of an American brand of care. If so, what role will the nation’s academic medical centers play in this unfolding drama? Thus far, academic medicine has played a dominant part in the creation of advanced knowledge to benefit consumers, but we have had a trivial role in enhancing the understanding of information for consumers. As academic medical centers seek to convince consumers they are worthy of leading health care redesign efforts, and providing reformed care themselves, they are under the glare of a public spotlight. We may be a lot of things, but efficiency and wellness are not our strong suits, and there is nothing more damaging to the public confidence than insincerity.