Public urged to ‘Care About Your Care’

Hmm, maybe I was on to something?

Last week, I posted two items about the federal government encouraging individuals to take a more active role in their own care, first the fact that I noticed AHRQ had brought back an older campaign that I thought really needed an update, and then about ONC introducing a consumer Web site about health IT.

Today, we learn that ONC and AHRQ have teamed with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and many other healthcare, consumer and business groups in a new campaign called Care About Your Care. It’s a month-long project to raise awareness about the issue of quality of care and teach consumers how they can search for and receive better healthcare.

There was a kickoff event this morning, featuring a live webcast hosted by Dr. Mehmet Oz. (Whoever built the site posted that it started ran from “11:30 – 1 p.m. EST.” It’s still daylight time, and will be until November. You also forgot the “a.m.,” since it started before noon. Hire an editor next time.) The video isn’t archived yet, so I don’t know exactly what was said. I’ll try to link to it or embed it later. Apparently, there were some local events surrounding the launch, too, as the Puget Sound Health Alliance hosted a live event in Seattle early this morning PDT (yes, daylight time) moderated by a local TV news anchor and featuring a cancer survivor among the speakers. A similar gathering took place in Bangor, Maine.

I’m liking what I see on the site, especially a rotating list of facts about the sad state of healthcare in the U.S. that people can click on to tweet. A few examples: “30% of health care spending is for services that may not improve people’s #health”; “7% of Americans have used information about quality of care to make a decision about their care. #health”; and “91,000 Americans die annually from bad care for conditions like high blood pressure, #diabetes and heart disease. #health.”

What I’m not so sure about it how much difference this campaign can make in just a month. Old, bad ideas are too deeply ingrained.

UPDATE, 6:05 pm CDT: Oz and RWJF President/CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey co-authored a piece explaining Care About Your Care in the Huffington Post today, pretty much guaranteeing that millions of conservative-minded folks will tune out, or, worse, suspect a liberal conspiracy to meddle in healthcare. I sincerely hope nobody still believes the lie that U.S. has “the best healthcare in the world.” By the way, I just Googled “us best healthcare in the world.” The first page of results listed a couple of media sources that tend to lean left, namely the New York Times and CBS News, plus a story from The Guardian (London) that reported on Jon Stewart exposing a bit of Glenn Beck hypocrisy. There also was an item from the Daily Progress. It’s not a hyperpartisan liberal blog, as the name might suggest, but rather a long-established newspaper in Charlottesville, Va. I only knew that because I took the time to check it out.

I truly hope people will view this campaign for what it really is, an effort to engage patients in their own care and open some eyes about the quality problem, not an insidious plot. Unfortunately, in a society that values sound bites over substance, this may be a losing battle.

By the way, that story from the Charlottesville paper was a 2010 letter from a reader contending that the U.S. really does have the best healthcare in the world, making a flimsy argument based mostly on waiting times for services, the prevalence of MRIs—as if volume somehow equaled quality—and a survey that laughably asked people whether they were in “excellent health.” This letter suggested that all that need fixing are cost and access.

Sorry, I don’t care what your political views are, there’s one problem that underlies all of the others. It’s quality, stupid.