In this new era, we must share power with patients, Dr. Berwick urges

BOSTON—In a conference of dazzling speakers and sessions on critical topics, the Jordan J. Cohen Humanism Lecture by Dr. Don Berwick was a distinct highlight at the 2017 AAMC Annual Meeting in Boston.

Dr. Don Berwick presents “Changing the Balance of Power: New Designs for More Capable Care” at the Jordan J. Cohen Humanism in Medicine Lecture held at the AAMC Annual Meeting on Nov. 4, 2017.

Co-sponsored by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the AAMC, the annual humanism lecture has featured such luminaries as Dr. Abraham Verghese (2012 and 2005), Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Anna Quindlen (2013), author and philosopher Parker Palmer (2011) and then-president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey (2009).

This year, Dr. Berwick, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, created a vision for a future healthcare in his lecture, “Changing the Balance of Power: New Designs for More Capable Care.” His urgent call to redesign the healthcare system focused on sharing power with patients, nixing “stupid rules,” and looking for ways to act in common, human ways that yield a great difference in our care for one another.

His talk was clearly of this moment, set against the backdrop of strife in America and the sense that a power struggle is driving us apart with terrible repercussions.

Dr. Jordan J. Cohen and Lee Wolf attend the Jordan J. Cohen Humanism in Medicine Lecture on Nov. 4, 2017, in Boston during the AAMC Annual Meeting. 

“If you don’t think healthcare is about power, you haven’t been paying attention,” Dr. Berwick said.

The radical idea of putting patients in control of the care – from inserting an IV line to even running their own dialysis treatment — has shown great promise in experiments around the globe, which Dr. Berwick showcased with multiple narratives. Studies of patient self-care in a co-production model have been shown to lower hospital admission rates and morbidity rates.

“Dr. Berwick’s talk built on the idea of co-production of health, the concept that well-being is created together by patients, healthcare professionals, and families, and went further than we usually consider — truly empowering the patient to administer their own care. Patients have been rendered helpless for so long in our healthcare system. But no one is as invested as the patients in their own healing,” said Dr. Richard I. Levin, president and CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Dr. Don Berwick presents ideas on how to share power with patients and families at the 2017 Jordan J. Cohen Lecture, co-sponsored by the AAMC and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Dr. Berwick emphasized, however, that “we cannot give what we do not have.” The power must be given to patients by those who have power, by the hospitals, the doctors, the administrators, and the staff.

“Dr. Berwick gave us a path forward that depends on love and justice, a way to think about how we can contribute to change that improves care for patients, for healthcare professionals, and for our greater society. It was nothing short of amazing, and I hope we will all be thinking — and acting — on his insights,” said Dr. Levin.