Twenty-five percent of patients do not think (or are unsure) that an anesthesiologist is a medical doctor! According the same survey by the American Medical Association, thirty-eight percent of patients think that a “Doctor of Nursing” is a medical doctor, and a further twenty-five percent are unsure! These are astonishing statistics which tell us, as anesthesiologists, that we need to do a better job of educating the public about who we are: Medical Doctors. Furthermore, we need to do a better job telling people what we do: keep sick patients alive, safe and comfortable, before, during and after surgery. The ASA and CSA are committed to doing this in several ways, through marketing, public relations and legislative initiatives.
It is clear that patients lack information about the training and credentials of people who work in health care. The ASA authored HR 451, the “Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act of 2011” which requires healthcare practitioners to clearly state on their badge whether they are medical doctors, nurses, physician assistants, or other healthcare practitioner. With an ASA record for the most cosponsors of a bill, 45 members of congress have signed on as cosponsors of this legislation. Please visit the ASA Grassroots Network for updates and more information about this important piece of legislation.
The ASA has improved its public outreach campaign with the launch and support of LifelineToModernMedicine.com, a website developed with the express purpose of educating the public and our colleagues about what anesthesiologists do. If you have not yet been to the site, please do so. Information about the training and expertise of different types of anesthesia providers is linked on the front page, as well as extremely well written sections on types of anesthesia, what to expect, and patient stories about the anesthetic experience. When your patients have questions about anesthesia, the LifelineToModernMedicine.com is a wonderful resource for you to share.
The CSA has also updated its website and is embarking on marketing and public relations initiatives to let the people of California know who we are and what we do. Stay tuned to the CSA Gasline and website for updated information. Even so, our best marketing tool is you, the physician anesthesiologist. Please get involved in your medical staff, surgery center administration and medical society to raise the profile of our specialty. Share your experience and expertise with your colleagues and represent your profession. In some ways, we are victims of our own success. We like to make the most difficult, challenging, stressful case look easy and smooth. Let your colleagues and patients know about your involvement in peri-operative care, acute and chronic pain management, critical care, sub-specialty anesthesia and volunteer events in your community. We are so good at what we do, that sometimes we forget to emphasize to our colleagues and the public know just how important it is to have a physician at the head of table when their loved one is under the knife.