The Pierce County Medical Society celebrates its 130th birthday in 2018. It is an indication of the longevity of the physician profession in our community, in our nation, and in our civilization that PCMS was founded the year before Washington was admitted as a state and like the Evergreen State itself, has evolved over the nearly century and a half of its existence to meet the ongoing changes that never cease taking place.
Even as the Society has maintained its founding tradition of being the professional organization in Pierce County for physicians and PAs, its mission and goals have consistently been nimble so that it may forever work toward that profession being successful, robust, and valued.
Doctors 130 years ago would have never thought of a system that didn’t simply pay them for providing a specific service (healing the patient of what ails them). In fact, doctors even 30 years ago would mostly not have thought of any other system. However, we all know now that with an unsustainable level of costs in the United States that looks to bankrupt Medicare while driving private insurance costs higher and higher, a main solution being implemented is to pay for overall value and quality.
Administrative costs and navigating the changing health care environment is driving some independent physicians to leave private practice not of their own choice. Those employed by large health systems sometimes feel less like a valued, educated, highly trained partner toward joint goals of success than a small cog in a huge machine with seemingly never-ending patient loads and hours that can feel like being back in residency with little recognition for individual experience, talent, or contribution to the group effort.
The fast pace of health care transformation means that mandates frequently come out of payers or the government, hit administrators of the health systems, and then often get passed down the line without a pause to examine why the mandate might be important in order to achieve “buy-in” or a reflection about the best ways to enhance respectful communication to achieve the mandates.
The kinds of efficiencies that drive an Amazon warehouse worker to get products off shelves and headed toward customers before a device starts beeping loudly at them to pick up the pace are now hitting health care.
Shortages in behavioral health care resources mean that primary care physicians are being looked to for roles they were never fully trained for in screening and treating patients for conditions like depression.
Recognition that what transpires outside the clinical setting such as whether a patient has access to affordable nutritious food or good housing impacts overall outcomes far more than what happens inside the walls of a hospital, urgent care, or physician office means that physicians are being looked to focus on the overall life and health of the patient with reimbursement threatened if that patient remains unhealthy.
The black bag of the neighborhood doctor has been replaced by modern temples of healing with stunning new technologies that help with, but don’t replace the age-old practice of medicine with a head, hands, and heart that goes back to the very first time one person ever looked to another to make them better or save their life.
1888 was another world in some ways for physicians—but the same in others.
In 2018 PCMS will seek to represent and assist members in the following ways (just to name a few):
--Continue to aggressively advocate with Congress, HHS, CMS, and the state government on the widest possible array of pressing matters, many of which evolve from month to month but that always include physicians being part of the evolution of health care with valued expertise about front line care to offer.
--Conduct lunch-time educational webinars with government leaders and health care delivery experts both within the medical profession and outside of it to continue to keep members medically informed and involved in the latest things impacting them and their profession whether in independent practice or employed by a health system.
--Work in partnership with the health systems to improve communication with the belief that in this new environment, all boats rise or fall together and that we’re all in this together for if the health system is failing then the doctors and PAs working there are likely failing and likewise, if the physicians are failing with poor morale, lack of communication, and difficulties in their working environment then the health system is in danger of failing too. Real partnership means shared success or the risk of shared failure. Everybody needs to be robust or the patients suffer.
--Pursue the joint health literacy effort with Pierce County Project Access to educate the widest possible patient population in the community about the need to establish primary care, use urgent care instead of the ED, and what to expect from their interactions with physicians so that they are not shocked if the doctor to use a tablet or computer during their visit while stressing the importance of things like showing up for appointments or not badgering their family doctor for antibiotics that could lead to resistance in situations where the doctor does not feel that antibiotics are called for.
--Issue some updated information about how physicians can participate in addressing social determinants of health for their patients to get ahead of the day when reimbursement will be significantly impacted in this area.
--Represent the physicians and PAs in the county in the ever-growing number of healthcare related initiatives in the community and the ever-growing network of interconnected partnerships.
--Continue to offer the opportunities for physicians and PAs who are not just colleagues but also community neighbors to gather for collegiality in no-stress, no-drama settings like another wine tasting with one of the biggest experts about Pacific Northwest wines at the Landmark Convention Center’s Rooftop Ballroom in the Stadium District (May 3), another fun summer picnic at Titlow Lodge and Park (August 16), the always festive Annual Meeting at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club (December 5) and other possible events such as a Tacoma Rainiers baseball game or a happy hour at one of the many terrific food/drink establishments around Pierce County.
Mostly, during the organization’s 130th year, PCMS will continue to seek to be the most dynamic and relevant professional organization for the physicians of Pierce County that it can be in honor of and in loyalty to the hugely important duties that each member performs as their life’s calling.