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AAOS Now

Published 11/1/2018
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Jennifer M. Weiss, MD

AAOS Is Primed to Influence Change in Healthcare Reform

Important points raised in a recent KevinMD article, including ‘How medical societies can save American medicine’

Nowadays, physicians and surgeons may not always find their voice. The days of surgeons having autonomy in private practice or leading the way in academic organizations are over. It is especially difficult to maintain the bond between surgeon and patient in a world that has shifted to calling us providers and referring to patients as clients or customers. Unfortunately, great things have been lost in this transition.

As Jacob Buchowski, MD, AAOS Board of Directors member-at-large, cleverly said—quoting the show “Game of Thrones”—“Winter is coming.” The number of physicians in the United States grew 150 percent between 1975 and 2010, while the number of healthcare administrators increased 3,200 percent during the same period, according to Physicians for a National Health Program. Fewer surgeons and more administrators, accompanied by the squeeze in healthcare dollars, have paved the way for a weakened voice for orthopaedic surgeons in 2018.

In July, Steve Levine, vice-president of communication for the Texas Medical Association and president of the American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE), delivered a speech at the AAMSE Annual Conference, which was later adapted to an article published on KevinMD (“How medical societies can save American medicine,” Sept. 3, 2018). Mr. Levine wrote that doctors are losing their voice to government agencies, insurance companies, big hospitals, and big pharma. Physicians are burning out, lost to the menial task of data entry. “They don’t have the time, training, equipment, or capital to redesign their practices so that they always deliver that value and can vouch for it,” he wrote. He also reminded us that patients are losing access to affordable care.

Despite painting a bleak picture, Mr. Levine wrote that there is hope, which he said hinges on medical societies, like AAOS. “That’s where medical societies come in. We can, we should, and we often do organize those individual doctors into cohesive blocks that have the clout to stop the idiocy being imposed on them by elected officials, judges, bureaucrats, bean counters, and hospital administrators who have no idea how a physician’s practice can and should run. Clout to bring the physicians’ and patients’ voices to the forefront of the healthcare value debate.”

AAOS is primed to be the solution for orthopaedic surgeons who want to influence healthcare reform in this country. Our quality, advocacy, and practice management committees have the expertise to define the value in value-based care. As chair of the Communications Cabinet, I am tasked with reminding our membership that although they don’t have the time, training, equipment, or capital to redesign their practices, AAOS does have the ability to influence change.

Seven years ago, I moved from an academic practice to a large integrated healthcare system built on physician leadership and coordinated care, where I have tremendous opportunity to have my voice heard in health care. As I made the move, I realized that the structure of AAOS, with the combined power of physicians’ and staff’s expertise, is a tremendous tool that we as orthopaedic surgeons have at our disposal to help patients and impact health care in more ways than with just our hands.

I encourage AAOS members to trust the Academy and, in doing so, positively influence patient care. AAOS is led by the Board of Directors—orthopaedic surgeons from across the country in various specialties. The Academy exists as a platform for which physicians can continue to make decisions to improve the quality of orthopaedic care, with patients as our true north. According to Mr. Levine, “Our physicians can and should play the central role in setting that value equation.”

AAOS helps define value through its American Joint Replacement Registry, which contains more than 1.4 million procedures in its database and is a leading source of quality-improvement information. The Orthopaedic Political Action Committee is another way the Academy helps define value and ensure physicians have a seat at the table for important policy discussions in our nation’s capital. Additionally, AAOS’ Office of Government Relations promotes and represents the viewpoints of the orthopaedic community before federal and state legislative, regulatory, and executive agencies.

Mr. Levine wrote, “It’s up to America’s medical societies to make sure that disruption is good, not just for some antiseptic Silicon Valley corporation. It’s up to us to make sure that disruption is good for patients and physicians who care for them.” AAOS is built for its members—our orthopaedic surgeons—to have a voice in maintaining patient-centric care. AAOS can save musculoskeletal care in the United States, one patient and one member at a time.

Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, is chair of the AAOS Communications Cabinet.

Reference:

  1. Cantlupe J: The rise (and rise) of the healthcare administrator. Available at: athenahealth.com/insight/expert-forum-rise-and-rise-healthcare-administrator. Accessed October 16, 2018.