Thursday, May 21, 2009

What a difference a week makes!

I don't typically use this blog to advertise what ACP is doing for its members, since this blog is about stimulating discussion of key health policy issues, not marketing ACP membership. Today, I am going to make an exception, because I think those of you who are ACP members need to know about the extraordinary things that this organization is doing for you. Please read this excerpt of a note I sent this morning to my ACP staff colleagues in Washington:

"I want to thank everyone for the incredible amount of work that each of you contributed to ACP's effectiveness over this past week. We just concluded what was certainly the most successful and effective Leadership Day, generating an extraordinary amount of excitement among our attendees and inspiring a new generation of medical students and associates. It was evident that they felt that ACP's priorities had risen to the top of the national priority list and that they were making a difference by being here.

We worked diligently with Rep. Allyson Schwartz on introduction of a comprehensive bill to support general internal medicine and primary care that was based directly on ACP policy. This bill was officially unveiled yesterday and received endorsement from the other primary care physician organizations, AAMC, and major nursing organizations. We worked closely with her office on preparations for yesterday's press conference. The bill has nearly 100 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, and Senator Maria Cantwell's staff has told us that she will be introducing a Senate version of the same bill within days.

As all of this was going on, we developed joint recommendations on payment reform with the AAFP and AOA that have been presented to the Senate Finance Committee. We provided detailed comments to the Senate Finance Committee under a very quick deadline on payment and delivery system reform. We prepared for and provided staff support for two major ACP policy committees, our Health and Public Policy Committees and the Medical Service Committee, and helped them move forward on several new ACP position papers that will enable us to continue to influence the policy debate on health reform. We have drafted analyses and responses to two other Senate Finance Committee options papers, again with a very short period of time to meet their deadlines, which need to go out to them within days.

I wish I could tell you that we can all sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors, but the pace of legislative activity is such (the major Senate committees expect to pass major health care reform legislation through their committees in June) that we will continue to be challenged to influence the process at every stage of activity, but I have every confidence that we are up to the task. Each of you, including those of you who were not directly involved in these specific efforts but contributed in your own ways, should share the enormous pride I have in the work of the Washington office."

It is not just the ACP staff that made all of this happen: my pride and appreciation also goes to 300 practicing internists and 100 medical students and IM residents who came to Washington this week to learn about the issues and to take our message to Congress; to the visionary leadership of ACP, which has given the policy direction and priorities needed to be viewed by policymakers as credible and effective advocates for better patient care; and to the ACP membership, which has reached an all-time high of 128,000 internal medicine physicians and medical student members - the life-blood of the organization.

I know that ACP still has our work cut out for us; there are no assurances that the progress we've made will materialize into the kinds of health care reforms needed by internists and their patients. When you read this, I hope you are able to share a bit in the spirit of energized optimism that pervaded ACP's Leadership Day on Capitol Hill, and that your day may be brightened as a result.

Today's question: Do you think most ACP members are aware of what the organization is doing for them? If not, how do we get the message out?


DrJHO7 said...

Great summary, Bob, and kudos to the folks in the Washington office, and to you, for your efforts on behalf of internal medicine via ACP.

The real question, I think, is do the NON-members of ACP who are internists realize the value of the organization (probably not) to their professional lives and their futures and how do we communicate that message to them.

About 80% of ACP members are connected in that they allow the organization to use email to communicate with them, but the other 20% are pretty much in the dark, unless they're reading the ACP Internist or looking at the website, or this blog.

The most effective way to get the message out is peer to peer communication. If internists are excited about what ACP is doing for the specialty, they should encourage their ACP member colleagues to get more involved in the activities of the college, locally and nationally, and enthusiastically encourage non-member internists to jump on the boat with membership.

I also think that it is key to involve young physicians in this organization at the earliest opportunity in their training. ACP should be educating medical students about internal medicine and encouraging their membership in the first year of med school.

Joseph said...

It was an extraordinary week and the staff and participants all need to be commended. Our patients were well served despite the absence of their doctor. As a direct result of Leadership Day, Sen Cantwell has bipartisan support for a similar bill on the Senate side that Rep Schwartz introduced on the House side addressing primary care. Kudos to all!

Steve Lucas said...

Addendum: Does the public know the ACP exist? When friends and I discuss medical issues and I mention the ACP all I get are questioning looks.

Even sadder, when I mentioned Bob Centor, (sorry Bob), to my last doctor (an IM) I got a: Who? When I mentioned the ACP I got a shrug.

Steve Lucas

Jay Larson MD said...

Leadership Day and the surrounding events were stellar. Connecting with internists across the country with the same primary care issues makes one realize you is not alone, even though you think that you are. The ACP has really stepped up to the plate with support for general internists. There should be an "Advocacy" document sent to all the ACP members to fill them in on the current status of health care reform and the role of ACP.