Reports David Bernstein, Patrick has tapped JudyAnn Bigby to be head of HHS. Here’s her bio, and that link also leads to a video interview and transcript. She seems big on the health of underserved populations and on the need for physicians to learn how to communicate with them:
One of the things that I am trying to do is to try to get physicians to see things from the patient’s perspective. Not just how it feels to have a heart attack, or breast cancer, or something like that. But also how the circumstances of a patient’s life impacts everything that happens to them, from the moment they walk into a health care facility. It may determine how comfortable they feel speaking to the secretary. It may determine how comfortable they feel asking a doctor a question. It may impact how comfortable they feel accepting instructions or advice from a doctor.
This may sound squishy or touchy-feely vague, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- MassHealth is a big, big chunk of the state’s budget, and bound to grow under the new health care law;
- much of the “underserved” population is either on MassHealth or eligible for it;
- Dr. Bigby contends that folks’ health depends on clear communication with their health care providers. Sounds like common sense, but doubtless a tricky matter to implement.
- Deval Patrick has proposed cutting state spending at least partially through finding new efficiencies in health care.
Is providing better communication and better care to underserved populations at odds with finding efficiencies? Or are they compatible goals? I tend to think the latter, but we’ll see what Dr. Bigby thinks.
UPDATE: I hope John McDonough at Health Care for All doesn’t mind me reprinting his post in full:
Gov. Deval Patrick has named Dr. Judy Ann Bigby to be his Secretary of Health & Human Services. Dr. Bigby is an internist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston (she is Mayor Tom Menino’s personal physician), where she is also medical director of the Center for Perinatal and Family Health. She is also faculty member at Harvard Medical School where she serves as director of the Harvard Medical School Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. She has a long history of working in behalf of the medically underserved; she’s a long time leader in efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care, especially those affecting women. She also is a leader in substance abuse treatment and prevention.
Dr. Bigby has worked with Health Care For All and other consumer and advocacy organizations for many years. She was a leader in pushing hospitals to recognize a greater level of responsibility for serving their communities. Dr. Bigby faces an awesome set of challenges in her new position, not the least of which is spearheading implemention of the health reform law passed last April.
We think she’s a great choice and we look forward to working with her. Congrats to Dr. Bigby and Gov-elect Patrick on this important selection.