May 20, 2016

What works best in your Chapter for member/patient benefit?

This week's BOG Update is brought to you by Laxmi Mehta, MD, FACC, Governor of the ACC's Ohio Chapter.

How to Elevate Advocacy Initiatives: An Ohio Chapter Case Study

The Ohio Chapter of the ACC (Ohio-ACC) has provided value to our members and patients in many ways, but our advocacy efforts rank among our highest value-added efforts. Over the last five years, there has been a concerted effort to elevate the Ohio-ACC's advocacy presence in the state and on a national level. Although we have not hired our own lobbyist, we have worked closely with other organizations such as the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) and we have employed the expertise and experience of their lobbyists. The Ohio-ACC hosts monthly teleconference calls with our national ACC advocacy liaison and ACC staff member Michael Lawrence, as well as our state AHA advocacy director to collaborate and jointly support and promote current cardiovascular (CV) bills. By no means does this relationship mandate agreement in advocacy initiatives, but it does allow collegial collaboration on similar interests. As a chapter, we have maintained our advocacy autonomy, albeit for the most part we have been agreement with the AHA with regard to patient-directed care issues such as newborn pulse ox checks and CPR legislation.

We recently held our annual Ohio-ACC Legislative Day and brought together nearly 30 members from across the state to lobby on issues ranging from hands-only CPR education in schools, to athletic coach training regarding sudden cardiac death in high school athletes, to dramatic prior authorization reforms. The night prior to our legislative day, we host a kick-off dinner and always invite the OSMA lobbyists to speak about current bills which the Ohio-ACC supports. They frequently provide us with insider tips about which legislators are supportive of or against particular bills as well as the rationale behind the legislators' decisions. They also provide us an overview of other medical related bills that are currently being considered in the Ohio Legislature, which allows us to be prepared for the legislators asking us for our medical expertise on these other bills. We also invite an ACC Advocacy liaison, and Michael Lawrence came this year to speak about how the ACC Advocacy Division can help the Ohio-ACC. The next day, the members are matched up with each other to meet with legislators --veteran "lobbyists" with first-time attendees. We aim to have the entire CV care team represented in as many appointments as possible: our CV team members, our CV administrators and our physician members. We find that this offers wonderful networking opportunities for our members as well as a well-rounded informational backdrop for the legislators. In the past, we have also had Mended Hearts patients accompany us on appointments which has further enhanced the experience.

The Legislative Day is preceded by an in-person board meeting. We find that this schedule helps to maximize the utility of our board members' time off from practice and encourages board members to participate in local advocacy initiatives. Additionally, we provide a travel stipend to one member from each district to attend the state Legislative Day. Several of our members are passionate about state advocacy and have been active throughout the year. We have had members meeting regularly with legislators on key issues as well as testifying before the Ohio House and Senate Education Committees regarding CPR education and sudden cardiac death bills.

Over the past four years, the Ohio-ACC has had the greatest number of members attend the national ACC Legislative Conference. This success stems from two things, interest and support. Clearly having an active state advocacy team drives interest in attending the national meeting. Furthermore, five years ago, as we planned the strategic direction of our chapter, we felt the need to promote advocacy and Ohio's presence on the national front. We accomplished this by adding 14 $1,000 travel stipends to our annual budget to help support our Fellows in Training, CV team members and FACCs expenses to participate in the ACC's Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. Our members' interest and value in advocacy as well as the travel stipends are key reasons for our successful presence in DC.

I hope these examples of our success on the advocacy front are helpful to you as you plan outreach in your state – and I look forward to hearing from you about what has worked for you as well!

Undoubtedly, the Ohio-ACC strongly believes in advocacy initiatives to help improve the health of our state and to further our efforts in the population health arena. We also advocate for issues affecting the practice of cardiology and reiterate to our members that we are their professional organization and have their interests at heart!