A physicians’ manifesto of sorts, composed by Sermo doctors demanding an end to intrusive insurers and overzealous regulators, has garnered 5,200 signatures in the several weeks since it was posted.
“There’s a sense of revolution in this,” said Dr. Daniel Palestrant, founder and CEO of the physician social networking site, which boasts around 70,000 members. “It’s doctors coming together for the first time, voicing discontent with the representation they’ve had to date and making it clear to the public that the quality of care is going to be suffering based on some of these outside forces.”
The “Open Letter from America’s Physicians,” hosted at doctorsunite.org, blames “The insurance industry’s undue authority and oppressive control over healthcare processes,” “Excessive and misguided government regulation” and “The practice of defensive medicine in response to a harmful and costly legal environment” for America’s healthcare crisis, and vows: “We, the physicians of the United States, will no longer remain silent. We will not tolerate a healthcare system where those without medical expertise or genuine interest in our patients’ health have absolute control.”
Once the letter has 10,000 signatures, its sponsors plan to take out newspaper ads. A “very large New York ad agency” (Sermo wouldn’t say which) has volunteered $1 million in services to the effort. Members are also setting up action committees to strategize around issues including mediation, care contracts with patients and working with insurers, said Palestrant, who added that “the community is also talking about declining third-party insurance and becoming more proactive about how we allow insurers to dictate patient care.”
Sermo’s management had no part in prompting the letter, but agreed with its drafters to publicize it once the number of signatures crossed the 5,000 mark – which it did just as legislation mandating deep cuts in compensation for Medicare claims was moving through Congress.
“Timing is everything,” said Palestrant, “and we could not have imagined the timing would work out this way.” The legislation, which would slash Medicare compensation by 10%, stalled in the Senate but will be taken up after the Fourth of July recess.
“It’s a very basic set of principles, but the idea is that if doctors unite behind this, it could get critical mass and start a movement,” said Palestrant. The letter came out of a discussion on the site that began last year. “There was a lot of debate and discussion, but in time, we started to see leaders emerge and a process develop. The community self-organized into a committee with leaders and proponents and antagonists, and two or three months later, out pops this very straightforward letter.”