Health care experts are taking on a new challenge: getting patients to buy into their health care ideas and practices.
In a recent survey of health care professionals by The Associated Press, more than a quarter of respondents said they would recommend a particular doctor or health plan over another if it meant they would save money on health care costs.
And nearly half said they’d look for alternatives to costly medications.
Experts say this is a new frontier for health care in the United States.
They say the Affordable Care Act is not the silver bullet that they’ve hoped for, but rather the first step toward fixing the country’s health care system.
“I’m going to continue to advocate for a free market system where we allow the market to work,” said Dr. James C. O’Donnell, the chief medical officer for the American Medical Association, a national association of physicians.
“We want people to be able to have health care choices.”
Dr. O.M.B. Prakash, the medical director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research and policy organization, said Americans have a right to healthcare.
“I don’t see this as a one-size-fits-all system, it’s about the individual,” he said.
“People should be able and expected to make their own decisions, and the market is an important component to that,” said David Hirsch, chief executive of HealthFirst, a health consulting company.
Hirsch said a system of insurers and government-run systems like Medicare could work better.
“It’s a better system than we have today, because it provides a level playing field for everybody,” he added.
But there’s also the worry that some doctors and hospitals might not follow the same principles.
“Some of the doctors are going to be unwilling to get into this, because they don’t want to be seen as having some kind of moral imperative,” said Prakatas.
The survey found that more than half of physicians and other health care workers said they’re concerned that doctors and other healthcare workers might not be as willing to speak out against their peers.
About a third said they were worried about the stigma that comes with speaking up for their patients.
“If you don’t speak up, if you don ‘stand up for what you believe in, you’re going to have a negative effect on your reputation,” said Mimi O’Hara, a doctor and the executive director of Physicians for a National Health Program.
“People will feel like they have to be ashamed.”
The survey also found that many doctors said they believe the government should step in and provide financial assistance to doctors who can’t afford to care for their sick patients.
“There are some doctors that are not comfortable in the idea of paying the bill, because you can’t take care of your own,” said O’Mahony.
“So they’re hesitant to pay the bill.
It’s an issue that I think needs to be addressed, and I think there is a recognition that we can’t be complacent.”