Living in the United States has many benefits, but top-notch healthcare isn’t one of them. While the US spent $3.5 trillion on healthcare in 2017, we ranked last in health system performance among developed countries. As someone who makes her livelihood in the field, that fact is pretty painful. Everyone agrees we need to do something about this problem; no one agrees what that something should be. It is easy to get bogged down in the current climate of indecision and political strife and take no action.
I have always lived by the philosophy that my mission wasn’t to change the world; it was to change the space I’m in, to find nearby opportunity that I have the ability to impact and improve. Initially, my space included my practice, my team and my patient panel. Quickly, it expanded to include my community. Engagement in leadership opportunities within my state, like the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care, broadened the definition of “my space” and let me help patients and physicians across a larger geography. Serving on the board of Family Medicine for America’s Health over the last five years and taking on the role of regional medical director for Aledade allowed me to again increase the footprint of “my space” and better understand how I could help an ever-diversifying population of family physicians, their patients and their communities across the US.
In bright spots all over the US, family physicians are changing healthcare for the better, and I spent the last two days recharging with some of the best of them. In addition to working as a medical director, I am one of about 30 independently-owned primary care practices who partner with Aledade to deliver accountable care in the state of Kansas. Each year we get together for a board retreat in October to share best practices and work through challenges. Every year we get better at identifying what really matters as we care for our entire patient population. This year, we talked about how hard it is to balance all of the work we are trying to do, the challenge we feel to provide excellent care in the current payment environment, and the contrast we see in health outcomes between patients who are in value based care and those who aren’t. And we talked about the commitment that we are making to ourselves, our patients and each other in the coming year as we strive to increase our reach and improve our performance. When healthcare is done well, the business of healthcare aligns with doing the right thing, and patients, physicians and the system all benefit.
I love the space I’m in now. I am ready to expand that space if selected to join the AAFP Board of Directors next year. And I accept the obligation of that position to further change the healthcare space for family physicians and their patients.