When a patient of Kimberly Jackson, MD, was told that her employer’s insurance plan would not cover visits to Dr. Jackson’s office, instead requiring her to visit a clinic with no physicians on staff, Dr. Jackson tried to reach out to local colleagues for advice on dealing with the frustrating scenario.
What Dr. Jackson, who is in a private family medicine practice, discovered is that deliberating with physicians about high-level issues like insurance coverage isn’t easy outside of a hospital network. That’s when she started Physicians Working Together (PWT) as a Facebook group in June 2015. Now, PWT claims over 4,000 members worldwide and celebrates successes such as expanding Doctor’s Day to the annual National Physicians Week.
Dr. Jackson and Tania Edwards, DO, a PWT member, explain how PWT is providing a platform for physicians and patients to improve the health care delivery model together.
Empowering the physician voice
Keeping up with the constant changes in the health care landscape can be challenging. This is why a peer-to-peer social network such as PWT can play an important role. PWT membership is free and discussions on Facebook give members a forum to vent, offer advice and bounce ideas and observations off of other members. Topics tend to center around common concerns related to health care, such as the expanding role of mid-level practitioners, and physician well-being. The conversations allow physicians to discuss the fluctuating rules and regulations at all levels of health care as they happen.
Tania Edwards, DO, a family medicine physician at Chattahoochee Valley Family Medicine in Columbus, Georgia, recently dealt with an insurance company who failed to inform her they would no longer be covering lab tests from the facility she’d been using for the last seven years.
Dr. Edwards, who was frustrated that she was kept out of the loop when the change occurred, says this is exactly the type of situation she turns to PWT for advice on.
“This organization is designed to listen to physicians’ issues,” says Dr. Edwards. “We can safely share our concerns and work together to frame solutions in a way that is positive so people are willing to listen to us.”
For Dr. Edwards, PWT provides a platform for physicians to ask questions that their colleagues may be able to answer because they’ve already tackled the solution.
“The power of numbers allows us to work smarter, not harder,” says Dr. Jackson.
PWT is seeking that power offline too, as members have joined together at in-person events like an advocacy day in Washington, D.C., in March and a PWT-sponsored Physicians Appreciation Dinner last month.
‘A new level of mutual understanding’
PWT members don’t just meet up with each other—they meet up with community stakeholders as well.
In October, when the impending presidential election left health insurance plans in question, PWT hosted town halls in seven states across the U.S. to allow patients an opportunity to share their concerns about potential changes to their health care directly with the people responsible for providing it. Physicians, in turn, were able to share some of the recurring obstacles to providing optimal patient care, such as office wait times, high medication costs and prior authorization.
Attendees on both sides expressed appreciation for the opportunity to better understand the other side’s perspective, says Dr. Jackson.
“We are reintroducing America to their physician through unity, transparency, and education,” she says.