The Importance of Doctor Organization

Physicians have a unique point of differentiation in the health care marketplace, one that is reinforced by their patient-centered relationships, clinical expertise and training. Their point of difference allows physicians to negotiate a range of business agreements, including provider contracts with health maintenance organizations and payers of health care services. This leverage, combined with the power of their membership numbers and collective bargaining, enables them to negotiate better terms for their practices and patients.

As health care delivery continues to shift toward value-based payments, the medical profession must continue to lead the effort to deliver higher quality, more efficient and affordable care to patients. That requires physicians to be organized as a cohesive group that can work together on common goals, and that can provide valuable insights and perspectives to the health care system at large.

Doctor organization is the process by which doctors come together to form groups that represent their interests, develop policies and strategies for action, promote and protect their profession and contribute to the betterment of society. It is an essential part of the health care system and is necessary for patients to receive the best possible medical care and protection from unethical practices.

The main purpose of a national medical professional association is to develop and promote the science and art of medicine, and to protect public health. It also works to improve the welfare of its physician members, whose responsibility it is to uphold high standards of professional conduct and practice.

Several countries have decentralized their registration of doctors, which means that the responsibility to carry out this function is vested in regional, provincial or departmental councils (Table 1). This makes it difficult for these bodies to take positions on national level on matters concerning the discipline of doctors or the prevention of malpractice, and it leads to a situation in which a doctor who fulfills all the requirements to practice in one province may not be admitted in the next because of a lack of a particular document.

In addition to this, problems arise when the same doctor is registered in several different regions of a country and is not permitted to practice in any of them because of the existence of a record against him or her. Finally, the problem of discrepancies in positions taken by the local and national councils on health matters may have important consequences for the quality of the health care system.

A recent survey of American physicians shows that nearly 80% belong to a county, state or specialty society. Younger physicians are less likely to join these societies than their older colleagues, but almost two thirds of them belong to a national society. Physicians in these societies are up-to-date on policy discussions and are involved in leadership development, are well-recognized in their specialties and work to shape the medical ecosystem. Their involvement can help shape the future of health care for all people, especially in a time of industry consolidation.