HM19

Hospitalists on the Hill


 

“Finally, and this is what separates us from other organizations that do legislative advocacy, we try to leave them with the idea that we’re here to help,” Dr. Lenchus said. “If there’s an issue or a particular bill that we’re asking them to sponsor or cosponsor, that’s one part of a visit. But by and large, we are trying to leave them with the sense that SHM is a resource when it comes to health care–related issues. We want to be there for legislators so that they can understand our position accurately from the outset.”

In short, Hill Day offers a rare opportunity to have direct access to the people who are voting on new legislation affecting hospitalists and affecting the implementation of existing legislation. “This is where the rubber meets the road,” Dr. Lenchus said. Each time a Hill Day is held, he noted, attendance increases. “That’s a true testament to the level of involvement and the interest that hospitalists have across the country. If you’re at all interested, you should absolutely sign up. This will be an amazing experience.”

The lasting impact

Though it’s just one day, Hill Day’s effects are significant.

“Before I started doing this work, I often thought, ‘What impact could someone have going into a legislator’s office?’ ” Dr. Greeno said. “But the answer is ‘A lot.’ The members and staff really do listen – especially if an advocate is highly educated and represent what legislators consider an important constituency, like health care providers. Health care is a hot topic, and it’s probably going to be one of the hot topics in the next election. Hospitalists have good ideas, and as a result these meetings are extremely influential; we wouldn’t do it otherwise. It is fun, but we’re not doing it for fun. We’re doing it because we know we can make a difference.”

In fact, in terms of impact on Capitol Hill, SHM punches above its weight, he added.

“We’re a relatively new society; we’re not huge. There are lots of societies that are much bigger than us and have many more resources, but people on the Hill have told us they like talking with us because they know we’re not looking at things the same way,” Dr. Greeno revealed. “We’re trying to help, and the issues that we’re addressing are not necessarily self-serving. We’re not saying, ‘You need to do this because it will make more money for our doctors.’ Instead, we’re saying, ‘You need to do this because the way it’s being done now is hurting patients. It’s hurting the health care system, and we have ideas about how to make that better.’ ”

SHM’s impressive track record has earned the society a positive reputation that will underlie the Hill Day meetings. “When we first set up the policy shop at SHM, we wanted to be seen as providers who cared about the American health care system and our patients,” Dr. Greeno said. “We have established that reputation, and that has led members on Capitol Hill to recognize us as being well intentioned and knowledgeable. So we have an outsize influence in Congress for our age and our size. When 200 hospitalists go to Capitol Hill, it’s an important thing.”

For more information about Hill Day, including details about participation, visit shmannualconference.org/hill-day/.

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