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Healthcare is not a zero sum game

Lauren Cortis

This week the RACGP launched their campaign Expert Advice Matters

Recognising the value of GPs is an important message at any time, especially in the current climate when everything else seems to be lost in the focus on Covid-19. There have reports of reduced referrals for cancer diagnoses, late presentations of heart attacks, concerns about domestic violence and under-reporting of child endangerment, impact on family planning...all sorts of issues for which primary care plays such a vital role in managing. For the most part, I think the campaign has done a decent job in conveying the value that the GP offers in providing not only medical care, but the cognitive and social support provided to their patients.

But there's something about the domestic violence scenario that doesn't sit quite right with me...

Unlike the other scenarios which are communicated from the first person patient perspective, this one is different. It positions the value of the GP at the expense of whoever is saying they recommend arnica cream.

Now whether they're talking about community pharmacy, a naturopath, a beauty therapist or anyone else, I don't really care. What I care about is that messaging like this reinforces the idea that health as a zero sum game, and I just don't think that's constructive.

GPs don't add value to patient care by being more expert than other care providers; they add value by attending to their patient's needs. Comparison to other care providers neither attributes or diminishes their value. Call me naive, but I believe embracing the contribution of other care providers and working collaboratively with them provides opportunity to amplify value, not reduce it.

The goal of healthcare is not finite and zero sum, it's infinite and longitudinal. Its about providing patients with the best healthcare experiences and outcomes that we can. This cannot be achieved within the culture of professional tribalism. Culture change is healthcare is needed, and it requires individuals with the confidence to take action and start working together across professional and organisational boundaries to deliver better care.

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