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New Charter Aims To Increase Professionalism Among U.S. Healthcare Organizations

A new set of professionalism-based metrics called the “Charter on Professionalism for Healthcare Organizations” was recently published in an online issue of Academic Medicine. This charter was written by a team of healthcare professionals, community advocates and partners in order to provide more healing environments in hospitals, provide ethical guidelines for hospitals and reduce workforce burnout.

This new charter extends the principles of professionalism presented in an earlier charter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2002: “Medical Professionalism in the New Millennium: A Physician Charter”. While that charter focused on the ideals for individual physicians, many physicians responded by saying that they could not fully embody the principles due to the stifling policies of their places of employment. This new charter speaks to this, offering ideals for the greater structure of healthcare.

The new charter separates aspirational behaviors into four categories:

Patient Partnership
Healthcare organizations can achieve a more patient-centered approach by allowing patients to be more involved in their care and in hospital strategies. This clearly benefits patients, but it can benefit organizations too. Healthcare organizations can increase public trust and improve their performance thanks to this approach.

Organizational Culture
More than half of physicians experience burnout. To solve this, we need to focus on the environment of the healthcare workforce. When organizations are caring for the wellbeing of healthcare workers, these workers can provide better care for patients as a result.

Community Partnership
In order to successfully bring about population health, it is necessary for hospitals, the government and community organizations to work together. These entities all affect the social determinants of health.

Operations and Business Practices
When a healthcare organization maintains ethical business practices, the quality of patient care improves, as does the hospital financial performance.

According to Lewis L. Low, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Legacy Health in Portland, Oregon, healthcare organizations have been struggling with provider burnout for a while. Dr. Low states that it is becoming more and more clear that organizational commitment is necessary to create real change that will bring about wellness. Her believes that the Charter on Professionalism for Healthcare Organizations will help foster an environment that allows the consumers to partner with the provider to make improvements.

The “Charter on Professionalism for Healthcare Organizations was funded by the ABIM Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the Federation of American Hospitals, The American Hospital Association and Northwell Health. Historical assumptions and roles of both staff and leadership will be challenged by transitions to the model health care organizations described in this charter. The authors of the charter realize this, but they believe that these ideals of professionalism can offer assistance in making decisions in a quickly changing, fiscally challenging and ethically difficult environment. They also believe that the healthcare providers and the patients alike will benefit from the resulting changes.

This new charter, just like the Physician Charter before it, seeks the endorsement of hospital systems, representatives of the health professions and specialty societies. The “home” of the charter project is the Foundation for Medical Excellence, a nonprofit organization that promotes sound health policy and quality healthcare. This foundation encourages healthcare professionals throughout the U.S. to make efforts to embody Charter principles.

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