How relevant are professional physician organizations in 2010? Why should a doctor join the American Medical Association or any other local physician organization? As the freestanding medical practice in the United States becomes part of 20th century history, the question is almost profound.
I believe as the role of the physician changes over the coming generation, cohesiveness and representation may once again evolve to be critical. I’m quite certain that physicians will come to be organized in ways and for reasons that we can’t predict.
Here are a few things that medical societies can do during this transformation:
Plan for the 21st century doctor. What do physicians do now and what will they do a decade from now? How physicians fit into an increasingly technological, third-party-controlled, patient-empowered world will define who we become and what our needs are. The way for any medical society to drive itself into obscurity is to do things as they always have. Nimble responsiveness to the changing lot of the physicians will determine the success of medical organizations.
Figure out what brings value to this next generation of physicians. What do they need and what are they willing to pay for? The answers to these two questions are different now than they were 15 years ago. But are medical societies that different than they were 15 years ago?
Identify real leaders. Change mandates new leadership. These leaders need to be passionate enough to stir unity. These leaders will need to be strong enough to shake the Byzantine foundation of 20th century medical organization.
Quickly now…off the top of your head name a recognized physician leader. (while you’re mulling that over I’m going to keep going)
Facilitate physician dialog. Social networks are the answer here. Sure the doctors aren’t wired in quite there but they will be (note to Doximity, iMedExchange, Sermo and Ozmosis: Doctors need a functional place to meet and talk – work on it and get back with me). Look to people like Steve Levine at the Texas Medical Association for an example of how a state organization can build social properties that gain traction.
Recognize that doctors are increasingly employees. Of course doctors own businesses. But for many the days of practice ownership are numbered. Consequently representation over issues such as reimbursement will grow to have little real value. Perhaps understanding the needs of physician employees may be a place to start.
Plan for the coming of the digital natives. The generation in power hasn’t a clue of how the next generation of physician thinks or communicates. It’s time to bring young thinking physicians into positions of power to help innovate and organize. I wonder what the AMA leadership would look like if we threw out everyone over the age of 40?
This is all well and good. But we have to recognize that medical societies can’t do what doctors aren’t motivated to do. You can’t muster passion that doesn’t exist. And to an extent things may need to get worse before the need for togetherness is fully appreciated.
Talk amongst yourselves.