Medical Writer Update

Keeping in Touch

Volume 3, Issue 1—Summer 2012

Healthcare Reform Marches On


I’ve been doing a lot of writing about healthcare reform issues lately, delving deep into the details of accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes, the Medicare star program, and new payment structures. So much so that in October I’ll be presenting a panel at the American Medical Writer’s Association (AMWA) meeting called “Healthcare Reform for Dummies.”


I believe that presentation will be relevant regardless of what the Supreme Court decides next month because the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have already changed the dialogue about health care in this country and the system itself.


The main message I’ll convey during that presentation is that the intersection between quality, quantity, and cost has finally occurred. We realize that we can no longer continue with the provider-focused, fee-for-service, acute-care model that has been in place for more than 50 years.


With at least half of Americans diagnosed with one or more chronic health conditions, we must find a way to get patients involved in their own care to improve prevention and outcomes. This requires a partnership between providers and patients. It requires that patients become the experts on their own care. I don’t mean experts on the medical condition; but experts on what will work for them.  


This, in turn, involves new ways of communicating with patients, such as motivational interviewing and understanding where patients fall on the Five Stages of Change. After all, if you’re not ready to change, then having your doctor berate you about your weight, smoking, blood pressure, glucose levels, physical activity levels, etc., simply isn’t going to induce you to change.


Without this partnership, many of the other tenets of healthcare reform, particularly payment changes that focus on outcomes and coordination of care, are doomed to fail.


What are your thoughts about healthcare reform and empowered patients? E-mail me at


On the Blog


Speaking of healthcare reform … read my recent blog, “Why I Fired My Doctor.” I think my experience epitomizes many weaknesses in our current system and the potential for some of the changes under way.


CME and Needs Assessments


As many of you know, a large percentage of my work is in the continuing medical education (CME) realm. And a big percentage of that work is writing needs assessments. In fact, I’ve been called “the needs assessment queen” by some.


I always wondered how much weight the needs assessment carries in terms of my clients getting their grants funded. I got my answer in January at the Alliance for CME annual meeting in Orlando, when I sat down at the hotel’s Starbucks and found myself next to the grants manager for Johnson & Johnson. Why not? I thought. So I asked:


“How much does the needs assessment figure into your decision to award a CME grant?”


“It’s the most important part of the grant application,” she said. “I read the needs assessment first; if it doesn’t support the need for the education, I don’t read any further.”


Key point: Don’t skimp on your needs assessment. Make sure the gaps are real, well supported by the evidence, lead into the educational need, and can be improved through the education you’re proposing and by participants meeting the learning objectives.


New Directions


As I begin my 13th year as an independent medical writer/communicator, I’ve been thinking a lot about new directions for my business. Among those is a greater focus on health policy issues and managed care, as well as more consulting and teaching on writing itself.


I know that many companies bemoan the poor writing skills of their employees. If you’re one of them, consider bringing me in for a workshop or some one-on-one mentoring. I guarantee you’ll see an improvement.


Have a great summer!


Lost Luggage
and Health Care



Debra Gordon, MS



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