Welcome to 2006 and another coming-out party for SHM and hospitalists. In just a few short months more than a thousand hospitalists will come together in our nation’s capitol for the SHM Annual Meeting May 3-5, 2006. In addition to the largest convention of hospitalists, hundreds of other stakeholders in hospital medicine will gather for what has become the centerpiece of their year.
In addition to the opportunity to hear our nation’s experts talk about the up-to-date, state-of-the art medical knowledge for hospitalists, the SHM Annual Meeting is the place to find your next job, reconnect with colleagues from around the country, express your own opinions and vision for hospital medicine at the Special Interest Forums, and so much more.
SHM will be literally in the center of our nation’s capitol. It will be an opportunity for hospitalists to not only see the power center for our country, but with SHM’s help, a time for hospitalists to engage our legislators about issues important to hospitalists and our patients.
Taking advantage of the location of this year’s Annual Meeting, SHM’s Public Policy Committee has organized the first SHM Legislative Day on May 3, 2006. SHM meeting attendees can voluntarily sign up to meet with their congressmen and senators and their staffs.
SHM will make all the appointments for these Congressional visits. In addition, May 3 will kick off with a Washington overview and practical sessions on how best to approach your legislators to get your message across.
In addition, SHM has been working with HPA, a nationally recognized information resource in D.C. to put together a “Hospital Medicine White Paper” to concisely describe the emerging specialty of hospital medicine and how our perspectives and ideas are important to the healthcare debate.
The white paper will be a useful document to leave with your legislator and to use as a reference for your discussions. It will also contain some suggested policy recommendations supported by the SHM Board that can form the basis of what we would like to see move forward in Congress and on the Hill.
I have participated in many of these Legislative Days in my time on the ASIM and ACP Boards. I have found the legislators and their staffs interested in hearing from a passionate, informed part of their constituencies. Often these conversations were informal and personal and led to an ongoing relationship that continued when we were back home. I looked forward to coming back to Washington to renew our discussions.
And there can be real tangible changes as a result of these Congressional visits. I have seen changes in Medicare scope of benefits and reimbursement and methodologies based on messages I carried with the support of my professional medical societies.
Hospitalists are in a unique position to influence the current and future medical debates in Washington. We are young (average age 37) with a long professional career ahead of us. Hospitalists are at the center of many issues and initiatives that affect hospitals and the acutely ill patients they treat. Hospitalists measure and improve inpatient healthcare in an era of decreasing resources and increasing expectations.
Right now there is significant activity in pay for performance and in developing quality performance measures. There is also debate on gain-sharing and discussions of reducing and reshaping reimbursement for physicians. There are discussions on how to fund medical education and how to make sure all Americans get healthcare—even the 45 million without any insurance coverage. There are issues of access and limitations of crowded emergency departments and hospitals running at capacity.
There is no shortage of ideas and proposals, and most of these will affect hospitalists and the patients we treat and the hospitals we work in. In many ways these issues will shape our professional futures and determine how satisfying a career as a physician and specifically as a hospitalist will be.
Hospitalists and SHM must be part of the dialogue. We must clearly state where we stand and be prepared to back this up with data and to propose realistic solutions we are prepared to implement.
So clear your schedules May 3-5, 2006, and come to Washington, D.C., to join more than a thousand of your hospitalist colleagues as we take our first determined steps at the power center of our country. SHM will provide the support and materials for your success. But you must supply the voice and the presence. We owe no less to our profession and our patients now and in the future. TH
Dr. Wellikson has been CEO of SHM since 2000.