Let emails from various sources reminding me about legislative advocacy. I know this is something that SHM is involved with, but do I really make a difference?
R.L., Portland, Ore.
Dr. Hospitalist responds:
It’s been a rather dizzying 15 years for hospitalists, as we all know. We’ve gone from a novelty act to a specialty with its own certification. Now, more than ever, people are looking to us to provide leadership in healthcare, and not just by practicing good medicine. There is a real role for advocacy from all of us who are on the front lines of care. The same questions that your local hospital asks are the ones being asked on the national stage: How do you define quality care? How can we control costs? What does the future of medicine look like?
These are not insignificant questions, but neither should you consider them to be “above your pay grade.” Legislators face incredibly difficult decisions that will fundamentally change the nature of healthcare in your career. These are not abstract arguments. There are millions of dollars at stake, with many disparate voices and interests shouting to be heard.
I would argue that the voice of the physician is important. You are the one providing care at the bedside, serving your community. If the saying goes “all politics is local,” then it is doubly true for healthcare.
It is imperative for all of us to continue to educate, advocate, and lead. You don’t have to be an “expert” in healthcare policy any more than you have to be an “expert” in congestive heart failure—patients benefit in both instances. Nobody is going to hold your hand and get Mrs. Jones back on the illustrious “curve”; she needs treatment, she needs it now, and your skills are more than up to the task. The same can be said for advocacy. You don’t need to be an expert, and you don’t need to wait until you have it all figured out; opportunities to advocate are available—right now. How?
- Check out the SHM website (www.hospitalmedicine.org); “Advocacy” is a link on left side of the home page.
- Contact your state medical society.
- Email your congressman or senator about an issue that’s important to you.
- Consider joining SHM’s Public PolicyCommittee. These folks are doing good work, outside of their daily hospitalist commitments.
Don’t try to solve all the issues; just pick one that’s important to you. Is it the SGR and payment reform? Quality measures? Liability reform?
It does not matter if your political shadings run blue, red, or purple. The bottom line is, start somewhere. You will make a difference, and it will take you less time to send your legislator an email through the tools on SHM’s advocacy portal than it did to read this article. One might argue rather convincingly that it will be more rewarding as well.