Update on Lown Institute's Right Care Action Week

rcaw-2016-badge-336x254The Lown Institute’s Right Care Alliance is building a grassroots social movement to fix healthcare by reaching out to the public and healthcare practitioners. The mission is basic and profound:

  • Profit-driven overuse, under-use, and misuse of medical tests and treatments have subverted the work of health care providers.
  • A much better health care system is possible.
  • Doctors, nurses and other professionals, along with patients and  families, can work together to make sure that health care – Right Care – exists for the benefit of patients, communities and society.

I first learned about the Lown Institute when Breast Cancer Consortium founder Gayle Sulik attended the institute’s 3rd annual conference in San Diego, CA in 2015. She met Lown President Vikas Saini MD (renowned cardiologist and co-convener of the Avoiding Avoidable Care Conference, the first major academic conference focused on the problem of unnecessary care), Senior Vice President and journalist Shannon Brownlee (known for her groundbreaking work on overtreatment and the implications for health care policy), Dr. John Ioannides (professor at Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center and among the most-cited scientists worldwide), and many other practitioners, public health specialists, journalists, and advocates on the cutting edge of thinking and action toward fixing the U.S. healthcare system.

The conference was full of people committed to evidence-based medicine, consumer-based input, and quality care for everyone. RightCare Action Week takes this message far and wide, giving examples on how to connect with people during RightCare Action Week.

Doctors can take the lead at work. Imagine if a practice commits each staff member to calling one client each day to ask: Was there anything you didn’t have time to ask me during your appointment?

Doctors and other practitioners can set up a public Listening Booth that invites people to “tell us” their stories.

A Story Slam is a more organized event for individuals to share their healthcare experiences in detail.

Or, anyone can simply ask people they know to write down or talk about “What worries you most about healthcare?” A list comes quickly to most.

Participants then write up the responses and experiences and send them back to Lown to analyze and share on their linked websites at www.lowninstitute.org and www.rightcarealliance.org.

As I learned more about Lown and RCA week, I felt encouraged that the primary point of asking people to open up about their worries about the health care system was first to listen with both ears and then to convince them that yes, we can do something to fix the problems. I believe, just as the Lown people do, that repairing the system means partnering with the doctors, nurses, staff and others who are just as concerned about the quality and scope of healthcare as their clients are. I wanted to participate.

RightCare Action Week (October 16-22, 2016)

mi-mapArmed with inexperience in never having done this kind of outreach before and no clue about what to expect, I joined RCA Week in Traverse City, MI. [My pin on the event map is between the pinky and ring fingers of Michigan’s famous “mitt.”]

With the help of some friends, we gathered anecdotes and stories about what worries the people in our community about healthcare. We went to the entrances of the post office and public library, occupied a lounge at an upscale senior residential “club,” and tabled at large speaking events. We spent a couple of hours at each location to gather bundles of comments. Both my Pilates instructor and my Yoga-Tai Chi center let me leave a pile of “What worries you most about healthcare?” postcards and a collection box for the entire week.

One person posted information about RCA Week on her Facebook account. Through the week, we became more efficient in getting responses and details, asking what people meant by their short answers. Just listening to heart-rending stories and concern for others buoyed us.

What Worries People Most About Health Care?

All told, we got responses from 185 people.

The major concerns were: the high cost of healthcare and drugs; that not everyone is getting good care; the increasing needs and costs of care for an aging population; Republican threats to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); and the need for dental and mental health coverage.

Many people including doctors also offered solutions such as: getting rid of for-profit healthcare insurance companies and replacing them with a single payer system, like Medicare, for all; regulating drug prices; providing treatment rather than incarceration for drug addiction; and using better evidence to make decisions about treatment (i.e., evidence-based medicine).

It was heartening for my friends and me to hear so many passersby say, “Thank you for doing this.” It suggested that sincere outreach, no matter how small, does make a difference in helping people to overcome the fatigue and cynicism that has built up around our broken healthcare system. Next October, we plan to reach out to more practitioners.

You can be part of this social movement too. Sign up to be part of the RightCare Alliance. Subscribe to the Lown Institute’s weekly news updates and browse their tools and resources. Learn about five important questions to ask your doctor. Find out more ways to get involved.

We can fix the health care system. Together.

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