The Importance of an Oath

"First, do no harm" isn't technically the Hippocratic Oath. Still, variations of this phrase have been used by medical schools for years as part of graduation ceremonies, and many doctors I speak with consider that mantra to be an important part of their mission.

In many ways, the words themselves don’t matter. What’s important about an oath—any oath—is the idea that there is a core set of beliefs that serve as the moral and ethical foundation on which the endeavor is built. I may be old-fashioned, but I like the idea that those who are the backbone of our medical system have a verbal declaration on which to base key decisions.

Today, those who have chosen the medical profession face significant challenges in terms of declining reimbursement from both the public (government) and private sectors (health plans). Shrinking compensation understandably has physicians on the lookout for ways to increase their revenue, including providing ancillary services, finding shift work at clinics, and even starting their own related businesses.

Often, this isn’t just about earning bigger profits and buying that Mercedes or shore house you’ve always wanted. Many times, that little bit of extra income can be the difference between keeping a member of your office staff or letting them go. But pursuing income outside the traditional medical care and reimbursement model also brings to bear challenges that arise when your professionalism as a doctor comes into conflict with earnings potential.

Although the dynamic between patients and physicians has evolved over the years, most of your patients still look to you as an authority figure. And as the opportunities for turning patients into commodities have risen, so too has the need for a moral and ethical foundation on which to build your practice. Maybe now more than ever.

Mike Hennessy is Chairman and CEO of MJH & Associates. Click here for more Hennessy's Highlights