An Open Letter to Pres. Bill Clinton

Post Written By Guest Blogger Casey Quinlan

This article is written by the opinion of it's author, and does not reflect the views of Mayo Clinic. We are posting this article to spark conversation and to elucidate the need for participatory design and work in health care.

I think I can call you Bill, since we’ve known each other since early 1989, the first time I actually met you, at the Democratic Governor’s Conference at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Oh, you don’t remember me?

No surprise, I was buried in the front row of the press gaggle, helping cover the meeting for the Today Show. I continued to cover you – on the campaign trail in ’92, at Madison Square Garden when you were nominated, and throughout your 8 years in office, including l’affaire Lewinsky – for years. So we’re blood, brothers.

This morning, I read a piece in MedCityNews about your $630K in speaking fees for two appearances, in 2013 and 2014, at the World Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit in Dana Point, California.

My head exploded.

You see, I have myself been working for years on transforming the healthcare sector into something that serves humanity, not corporate bottom lines or C-suite ivory tower dwellers. I’ve been doing this based on my direct experience, as a family advocate and caregiver for two members of the Greatest Generation, and then as my own advocate through cancer treatment.

I know how screwed up the US healthcare system is. I also, thanks to the fact that I’ve been (a) loud and (b) indefatigable, know that the global healthcare system ain’t exactly all beer and skittles, either, but the US system is particularly remarkable in its ability to strip off $3-trillion-with-a-T in revenue every year, in exchange for serving up 11th place in the global Top 10 of healthcare system quality.

As I mentioned, my head exploded at the $630K speaking fees you received for keynoting at the World Summit over two years. You see, I get invited to all sorts of national healthcare system transformation shindigs, often to appear on the platform myself, usually as part of a panel. My voice apparently has some sort of value, since the invitations keep rolling in for me to share my perspectives on how to fix our fractured, unsafe, crazy-train healthcare delivery system.

However, I’m not paid in high-dollar speaking fees. I’m usually paid in warm handshakes, cold bagels, and occasional airfare. In other words, I’m working as what amounts to slave labor a volunteer in service of transforming a system that, as I mentioned, manages to suck up $3T/year (20+% of US GDP), and still manages to kill somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 people a year through preventable error.

So here’s my pitch. I invite you to contribute $630,000.00, in whatever split you choose, to the Society for Participatory Medicine and the Lown Institute’s RightCare Alliance.

The Society for Participatory Medicine is dedicated to “a model of cooperative health care that seeks to achieve active involvement by patients, professionals, caregivers, and others across the continuum of care on all issues related to an individual’s health. Participatory medicine is an ethical approach to care that also holds promise to improve outcomes, reduce medical errors, increase patient satisfaction and improve the cost of care.”

The Lown Institute is a collection of researchers, doctors, nurses, policy experts, and just plain people-patients (sensing a theme here?) that “seeks to catalyze a grassroots movement for transforming healthcare systems and improving the health of communities.” Their RightCare Alliance “is the first grassroots social movement that brings together health professionals, religious and community groups, and the public. Together we are working toward a society in which the right care is accessible by all. We believe this will be made possible through a collaborative process that engages local healthcare institutions and the community in the stewardship of resources for health.”

C’mon, Bill. It’s not like you can’t spare the $630K. Put your money where your mouth is. Those of us in the trenches are getting pretty tired of living with what we’ve come to call “#RattyBoxers syndrome.” We’ll put that cash to use making sure our ground troops can show up at the meetings where they’ll have a chance to make a real difference, at speed. Even the World Summit.