Can Social Media Save Healthcare Reform?

Daniel Palestrant is the Founder & CEO of Sermo, the largest online physician community, and a friend of THCB’s from the Health 2.0 world. Lately Dan has been seen on cable TV representing the 110K+ Sermo members in the health reform debate—including a very public break-up with Sermo’s former partners at the AMA, which has endorsed the House 3200 bill. I’ve been asking Dan, if his members’ don’t want the House bill, what do they want? This is the piece he sent me in reply—Matthew Holt

Daniel Palestrant Speaking at Fortune’s Brainstorm Technology Conference last month, longtime healthcare reform advocate, Howard Dean pointed out that the “dirty secret” of social media is that it can put a whole lot of politicians out of business because it allows the truth to bubble up. For the sake of healthcare reform, let’s hope he is right.

True healthcare reform has no chance of occurring with the current political topography. As the general public tries to make sense of the 1,000+ page version of the bill and President Obama distances himself from Howard Dean’s raison d’etre, the public option, two things are becoming increasingly clear:

1. There is very little actual healthcare reform going on.

2 The insurance companies look like they will win, no matter what, especially if you believe the cover of the most recent Business Week “The Health Insurers Have Already Won”.

At Sermo.com we seem to be seeing Governor Dean’s prediction come true.

More than 110,000 US physicians use the Sermo.com platform to fact check, problem solve, critique and learn from each other in real time. And as the most critical reform of our lives is making news all around us, Sermo is emerging as a clear and unified physicians’ voice in the healthcare debate. For example, within 36 hours of the first version of House reform bill coming out, the 21 members of the AMA board of trustees endorsed the bill. In the following week, 11,000 physicians logged into Sermo and voted on whether or not they support the bill. An astounding 94% stated that they do not. The physicians’ voice became the canary in the coal mine, and we’ve all seen what’s happened to the AMA’s support and support for the bill since then.

This week, social media takes another step forward as the physicians of the Sermo community announce the Physician Appeal, opening a channel for direct communication between physicians and policy makers, cutting out the influence of special interest groups. What doctors on Sermo.com want is simple, and it doesn’t take 1100 pages to say. We believe that creating real change means:

1. Reducing unnecessary tests and procedures through tort and malpractice reform,

2. Allowing doctors to spend more time taking care of patients by making billing more transparent and streamlined (creating an alternative to CPT codes)

3. Insurance reform to ensure that physicians are making medical decisions with their patients, not insurance company administrators.

4. Revising the methods used for calculating reimbursements so that there will be enough qualified physicians to provide patient care.

Perhaps most telling, not one of the things that physicians consistently rank as the most important steps to true healthcare reform are even mentioned in the current versions of the reform bill. If Governor Dean’s prediction is accurate, that the truth will bubble up through social media, well then it appears we have a long way to go in this reform process.

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  1. We are asking that if you support Health Care Reform for all Americans that you please
    join the boycott and send a message to the following companies that we the people will not be held hostage by the insurance companies or Senator Lieberman in the State of Connecticut.
    The following companies to BOYCOTT, buying an alternative brand are:
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    XEROX, Inc.
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    As this list grows of the COMPANIES whose products should be BUYCOTTED which are based IN CONNETICUT we will add to this list.
    Please forward this email to friends and family who desire fair and reasonable
    HEALTH CARE REFORM for all citizens.