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Strengthening the Consumer Voice in Managed Care: V. Helping Professionals Listen
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According to some prominent health policy analysts, the unique American managed care system, which asks competing insurers and market forces to reorganize health delivery and constrain costs, is on its way out. To do better in the future, whether in an evolving managed care system or under some new framework, we must identify the key policy lessons from the waning national strategy of third-party (insurer) management. One lesson is the need to strengthen the consumer's voice in overseeing health policy and practice in whatever system comes next.

For consumers to have a meaningful oversight role, three conditions must be met. First, the consumer community must be skillful at "giving voice" to its values (2,3). Second, the organizational environment must support a robust consumer role by "transmitting" the consumer perspectives to points in the organization where they can exert influence (4,5). Finally, the professionals who manage the program must be adept at "listening." This third condition is the focus of this column. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services