MANAGED CARE ETHICS: Policy Center Releases Guidelines
Seven principles "to improve the ethical delivery and reception of health care" were released yesterday by the Rocky Mountain Center for Healthcare Ethics. Concerned that "the individual patient can get lost" as "health care providers try to strike a balance between quality and cost," the Center consulted more than 600 consumers, health care professionals and advocacy groups to arrive at the seven principles, which are published in a 20-page guide titled the Colorado Code of Ethics for Health Care (Diddlebock, Denver Post, 10/7). The principles lay out voluntary guidelines, but the Rocky Mountain News reports that HMOs have "embrace[d] the plan and view it as an alternative to a Patients Bill of Rights measure being considered in Congress, which would likely mandate stricter regulations." The newspaper also noted that HMOs "that follow the code may also fare better when it comes time for employers to select a plan." The proposed guidelines are as follows:
- The health care community should "demonstrate a commitment to provide services to both the uninsured and underinsured";
- Patient information should be kept confidential (Gonzalez, 10/7);
- Providers should use "resources 'appropriately'";
- Providers should improve "the health of the public" while promoting "fairness, equality and just treatment of individuals";
- Information exchange, education and "shared decision making" should be encouraged;
- "Participant" relationships should be established between doctors, patients and HMOs;
- Emphasis should be placed on ensuring "ethical behavior and accountability."
Gerry Heeley, who founded the Center for Healthcare Ethics, said the code is "the only document of its kind to put together all of the elements of managed health care, including consumers." Ralph Pollack of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, said, "This is a time when the public has less and less confidence in institutions, including health care. Things like this (code) are meant to try to instill some confidence" (Denver Post, 10/7). Dr. Liz Whitley, a spokesperson for the ethics center, said a steering committee will meet and issue "an annual report on the effectiveness of the code," and the Center "will host a meeting next month to get consumers, employers and health care industry officials talking about the guidelines." Copies of the $20 report can be ordered by calling (303) 831-4880 (Rocky Mountain News, 10/7).