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July 27, 2009

Health care reform: the Sermo survey

Now that the AMA decided to backtrack on its recalcitrant opposition to health care reform (a position I criticized here), it’s time to examine another group that’s generating some interest.

Sermo, an Internet discussion board and a portal for medical education, recently launched a survey to determine the level of physician support for the health care reform act passed by the House of Representatives.

Sermo, for those of you who do not know (and this is not a paid advertisement), is an online medical community launched in 2007 by surgeon Daniel Pallestant. It bills itself as an “Internet-based free-wheeling conversational forum for licensed practitioners to talk to each other without interference by outside parties, and to feel free, frank, and uninhibited about their opinions.”

For the most part, Sermo has limited the scope of its activity to creating forums for case reviews, case presentations and other clinical discussions. But Sermo joined the fray in the health care debate by posting a survey, asking its members about the House plan. The questions and results of the survey bear some examination.

The first question was, “Do you endorse the current House Healthcare Bill as it is currently written?” A whooping 94% of the roughly 6,500 respondents said an emphatic “no.” The second question was even more interesting. “Does the AMA speak for you in endorsing the House Healthcare Bill?” Again, 95% of respondents said “no.”

The third question was, “What is the most important issue that must be addressed for you to support a Healthcare Bill?” The two top concerns voiced by respondents were “limiting third party and administrators from compromising the doctor-patient relationship” and “malpractice reform.”

Now, just to make sure this was a representative slice of “real middle-America MDs,” I queried the site membership tab and looked at the physician profiles by specialty. At least from the number of physicians listed, it seems Sermo has an equal number of primary care doctors and subspecialists, as well as a good number of hospitalists.

In my previous post, I questioned the AMA’s position as being a representative voice for physicians in this country. Its initial reaction to the health care debate suggested an archaic model of representation, a bully with no muscle. Is Sermo—which maintains a partnership with the AMA—the next possible national model for physician association? Only time will tell.

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About Ruben J. Nazario, MD
Ruben J. Nazario, MD, is now medical director at Inovalon, a health care data analytics company, and is medical editor for Elsevier's First Consult. A pediatric hospitalist, Dr. Nazario is a veteran of both community and academic pediatric hospitalist programs. All material represents his own views and does not reflect the views of his employer.
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