Hospitalists on the Hill
WHEN: May 16, 2013
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
HOW: Register today at www.hospitalmedicine2013.org/onthehill Space is limited.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act, which was signed into law Jan. 3 to stave off the fiscal cliff, contained a little-mentioned provision that reauthorized $10 million in Medicare funding for the National Quality Forum (NQF). Hospitalists, taking on the role of policy advocates, helped secure this reauthorization and score a victory for national quality-improvement (QI) efforts.
The NQF is a nonprofit organization established to create consensus around national priorities and measures for performing reporting and improvement in healthcare. It receives funding through a variety of sources ranging from public funds, private organizations and membership dues. Since 2009, it has received $10 million annually from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contract. That contract, a significant portion of NQF funding, was set to end in 2012.
The Stand for Quality coalition, composed of healthcare organizations supportive of the NQF, helps ensure that Congress sustains funding and support of performance measurement reporting and QI. SHM historically has been a strong proponent of the NQF, pitching in at the start of Stand for Quality four years ago this month. As it became clear that the federal contract for the NQF was not likely to be renewed by Congress for the 2013 calendar year, the member organizations of Stand for Quality were asked to step up to the plate in any way they could.
Jumping at the opportunity to assist, SHM linked hospitalists to their members of Congress in support of the NQF. Through members of SHM's Public Policy and Performance Measurement and Reporting committees, SHM connected with congressional offices and urged them to join a sign-on letter from the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) office in support of continued NQF funding. Letters between members of Congress are a way that legislators internally lobby on behalf of a particular issue. Hearing from their constituents can help persuade a legislator to act.
Sharing professional expertise also can inform a legislator's decisions. SHM members have a wealth of specialized knowledge and experiences that greatly benefit health policy discussions. In December 2012, SHM was asked to join NQF staffers and several other organizations on Capitol Hill for visits with select members of Congress, including several physician-legislators. These meetings were designed to raise the profile of the important work NQF is doing for QI and to make sure that NQF funding was not forgotten in any debt deal.
Mangla Gulati, MD, FACP, FHM, a hospitalist and SHM member, participated in these visits on behalf of hospital medicine and provided much-needed physician input on the importance of NQF's work.
The benefits of in-person visits are mutual: Members of Congress learn more about the real-life effects of a particular policy and, according to Dr. Gulati, "the visits to the Hill were a very valuable experience and shed a whole new light on the challenges we face in medicine."
Taken together, these advocacy tactics—coalition-building, contacting congressional offices, and in-person visits in Washington—were crucial to securing NQF's funding reauthorization and are critical tools for the advocacy work at SHM. The most concrete and impactful advocacy includes positioning hospitalists on the front line and sharing their perspectives and experiences with policymakers and their staffs.
We hope you'll heed this call and join SHM in Washington, D.C., May 16 for Hospitalists on the Hill, part of SHM's annual meeting. For more information and to register, go to www.hospitalmedicine2013.org/onthehill.
Joshua Lapps is SHM's government relations specialist.