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In the 1999 Star Wars film “The Phantom Menace” the legendary Jedi Master Yoda mentors young Anakin Skywalker with the now famous words, “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about all the anger and hate we have in our country.  But at the root of much of that anger and hate is fear.  It boiled over on January 6 of this year in the nation’s Capitol.  And in recent days, we have seen it boil over into the practice of medicine.

On the evening of Friday, January 29, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, WA, went into lockdown after protesters, some of them carrying firearms and gas masks, gathered outside the building.  The protesters thought that a patient inside, who was placed in 24-hour quarantine after refusing a COVID-19 test, was being held against her will.  The daughter of that patient insisted on seeing her mother in the hospital but refused to wear a mask.  Upon being denied entry to the hospital, the daughter contacted a friend who streamed an online request for “all hands on deck” to come to the hospital and demand the patient’s release. 

Deputies were called to the scene and all entrances to the building were secured.  But not before the crowd nearly breached security.  In the end, one of the deputies spoke with the patient and determined that she wished to remain in the hospital for treatment.  You can read the full story here.

We in healthcare like to avoid political rhetoric.  But we need some dialogue around truth, science, politics and the future of healthcare.  For this reason, we have decided to hold a healthcare policy session on this subject during our annual ConvUrgentCare Strategy Symposium coming up March 1-3.  The session will take place the morning of March 2.

It is always risky to introduce politics into a conference such as ours.  But I think it is important to bring some thought leaders together to help us put this subject into perspective.

Traditional media and the practice of journalism were once the gatekeeper of truth and facts.  Journalism has rules to oversee what gets published and what does not.  Editors require their correspondents to have trusted sources; that trust is established through a number of ground rules, including not relying on one source, verifying those sources and double-checking facts that come from those sources.  There is an iron wall between the advertising side and the reporting side.  Editorial staffs are separate from news reporting staffs.

Social media doesn’t have those ground rules in place when articles are written.  QAnon is an extreme example.  There is one source, and nobody knows who that is.  That source puts out content without ground rules. 

In healthcare, like journalism, we have established rules and infrastructure around what leads to patient care.  We have research that leads to treatments; we have clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of those treatments; we have published articles on those clinical trials that are peer reviewed; we have payers who are obligated to their individual and institutional clients; and we have government regulators.

But social media doesn’t need ground rules to become the source of medical advice to healthcare consumers.  Are traditional healthcare providers at risk of the kind of disruption that traditional media have experienced?  Are we doing enough to prevent that?  Do we in the field of on-demand medicine, often looked upon as the gateway or front door to the healthcare consumer mass market, have an obligation to lead the defense of truth and science in healthcare?

To lead off the session on March 2, Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN), U.S. House of Representatives, will provide some insights from Washington on healthcare policy and directions given the new administration.   Before her election into Congress representing a traditional Republican district, Rep. Craig came from the business community as head of HR and Corporate communications for a publicly traded medical device company, now a part of Abbott.

Following Rep. Craig will be Kyle McGowan, who was appointed chief of staff at the CDC during the Trump administration.  Mr. McGowan resigned from his post last August and his story was told in a New York Times article this past December 16.

Following Mr. McGowan will be Dr. Mai Pham, formerly vice president of provider alignment solutions at Anthem, where she was responsible for developing and refining Anthem’s provider payment models that reduce the cost of care while rewarding improvements in quality and access.  She will provide perspective on this potential threat to mainstream healthcare.

To close out the session, we will hold a panel discussion with Dr. Pham and Mr. McGowan and two additional panelists:  

Dr. Carolyn McClain is a practicing emergency physician with Emergency Physicians Professional Association and secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota Medical Association.  She recently held the position of chief medical officer for the Urgency Room, a multi-unit urgent care practice in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  In November 2020 she was one of three providers who participated in MN Governor Tim Walz’s press conference to appeal to the public during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Minnesota.

We originally had scheduled former U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN) on the panel, but due to an injury and hospitalization he will no longer be able to join us.  In his place will be Scott Kulstad, executive fellow at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business in Minneapolis.  His work in Health Policy started when worked as a Health Policy teaching assistant under Senator Durenberger.  When Senator Durenberger retired in 2014, Mr. Kulstad assumed responsibility for the Health Policy class and helped coordinate the Durenberger Health Policy Seminar in Washington, DC, a position he holds today.  In addition to Health Policy, he co-teaches health law and healthcare operations.

We hope you will join us for this important event.  For more information on the ConvUrgentCare Strategy Symposium, including the agenda and registration information, go to the Symposium page of Merchant Medicine’s web site.

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