Please read Harold Pollack's post on what Donald Berwick's resignation as head of CMS (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) says about the lack of professionalism in US government. For a conservative view on the current 'comical' lack of professionalisim, see Tevi Troy.
One of Harold's sentences stands out for me:
His methodical research and practice have saved many thousands of lives.
Harold is referring to what I think is the most important part of Berwick's career. He is a physician, and he will probably return to being a professor, but he was above all a reformer of the practice of medicine. Not a political reformer, but rather someone who ran campaigns that have saved lives by changing how medicine is practiced. These were not campaigns to redistribute medical care, or change how medicine is paid for. The goals were to change physician behaviors that killed patients, by persuading doctors to:
- Deliver Reliable, Evidence-Based Care for Acute Myocardial Infarction
- Prevent Adverse Drug Events
- Prevent Central Line Infections
- Prevent Surgical Site Infections
- Prevent Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia
These are practical, not ideological goals. Like Harold, I am persuaded that Berwick's efforts prevented tens of thousands of deaths stemming from substandard US medical care. This is the strongest possible credential for the administrator of Medicare and Medicaid.
What might Berwick have done with eight years to promote quality of care as head of CMS? Based on his record, he would have saved lives.