ACP: Quest for profits may be damaging healthcare system

The organization says patients should come before profits.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) has released a new policy paper which indicates that the push for profits may have contributed to the problems evident in the U.S. healthcare system.

According to a news release, the paper instructs that the principles of professionalism and medical ethics should necessitate a patients-over-profit orientation and protect the patient-physician relationship.

“In recent years, we have seen health care become increasingly business-oriented with more for-profit entities and private equity investments,” Thomas G. Cooney, MD, MACP, chair of ACP’s Board of Regents, says in the release. “We need to be sure that profits never become more important than patient care in the practice of medicine.”

Commercialization of the healthcare system can create conflicts of interest, undermine care, and ruin patient trust and while trends like consolidations, mergers, and integration in the healthcare system could lead to positives like enhanced collaboration, they can also lead to higher healthcare costs for patients, according to the release.

The paper identifies the potential harms of corporate influence and interests on health care, but specifies that profits aren’t inherently wrong.

“Physicians, hospitals, and other health care organizations can, and should, earn a reasonable income as long as they are fulfilling their responsibility to provide high-quality patient care,” Cooney says. “We just need to have the appropriate guardrails in place to protect against outsized influence of profits.”

Some of the recommendations contained in the paper include:

  • Additional research identifying the influence of for-profit companies and corporate influence on the healthcare market
  • Fostering the patient-physician relationship through actions such as: giving all Americans access to healthcare coverage, reforming payment and delivery systems to align incentives with what is best for patients, and price and quality transparency
  • Non-profit hospitals should provide measurable benefits in the community in exchange for their non-profit status
  • Medicare-participating hospitals should, tax-exempt or not, should be required to adopt uniform fair pricing, billing, and collection policies
  • Research should be conducted on the effect of private equity investment on clinical decision making, healthcare prices, access, and patient care
  • All mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts involving healthcare entities should be carefully scrutinized by public officials
  • State governments need to continue to be required to oversee all insurer conversions

“Providing high-quality care needs to remain paramount in all of our interactions with patients,” Cooney says. “Taken together, ACP’s recommendations can help to ensure that business decisions aren’t ever allowed to get in the way of providing the care that our patients depend on us to deliver.”