ACC Advocacy: Owning the Problems, Advancing Solutions

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Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and the leading driver of health care costs in the U.S. As the caretakers of cardiovascular patients, the ACC and its members spanning the entire cardiovascular care team must develop and advance solutions that increase access to care, improve quality and value, and promote heart health. This is no easy feat, but one that is critical to achieving the ACC's Mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health.

On the Advocacy front, reversing these trends and facilitating change means working with state and federal lawmakers and regulators involved with developing policies and programs that impact our patients and our profession.

Over the last several months, the College's Health Affairs Committee has been hard at work identifying a targeted set of advocacy priorities that align with the College's Strategic Plan for the next five years.

These priorities, which were recently approved by the Board of Trustees, are intended to provide focus and vision to our advocacy and health policy efforts. They are the lens through which we are not only owning the problems facing our profession and patients, but also owning the solutions.

Among the priorities is a focus on reducing administrative burden and promoting clinician well-being. Excessive administrative tasks that are not central to direct patient care can lead to delayed or missed patient care, clinician dissatisfaction and workplace burnout.

As such, the College's advocacy efforts are focused on minimizing or eliminating barriers to efficient, high-quality cardiovascular care in all practice settings by addressing administrative burdens imposed by government programs and private health plans.

To date, the ACC has developed tools to help with reporting of prior authorization-related hurdles, continued to work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on electronic health record regulations, and has been actively participating with the Regulatory Relief Coalition to introduce legislation in Congress, and more.

Leading the transition to improved care models that strengthen value and patient outcomes is another important priority, particularly if we plan to own solutions. We continue to find ways to educate clinicians and raise awareness of Alternative Payment Models (APMs) and are working with CMS on APM requirements and rollout to shape and improve alternative payment efforts to come.

Continued education and updates around participation in the federal Quality Payment Program is also top-of-mind, along with preparing members for participation in the upcoming Appropriate Use Criteria program. Creating greater opportunities to better coordinate and collaborate with payers on cardiovascular-related issues and care delivery models is also underway, with an initial stakeholder forum planned for later this year.

Promoting practice stability and patient access to affordable care and optimizing cardiovascular care, outcomes and health are additional priorities that tie directly into ACC's vision for the future. On the practice stability and patient access front, we need to remain vigilant in our work with CMS and lawmakers on quality payment and coverage decisions.

The tireless work of Advocacy leaders and staff surrounding the annual Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and other federal rules is of the utmost importance in ensuring fair and adequate payment for cardiovascular services and ultimately patient access to appropriate, cost-effective services.

Our relationships and work with the Food and Drug Administration and other stakeholders to ensure drug and device safety are also vital. Other important areas of focus: continued funding for cardiovascular research, especially for at-risk or underrepresented patient populations; passage of state and federal policies designed to reduce tobacco use; and support for policies and programs that promote patient well-being and safety.

Last, but certainly not least, we would be remiss if we did not focus on advancing member engagement and leadership. Already our Board of Governors and our Member Sections and Councils have made great headway in sharing their on-the-ground perspectives on health policy areas of interest and importance.

Our annual Legislative Conference and local lobby days and "Cardiologist for a Day" programs provide unique opportunities to educate policymakers and other influencers on the issues facing the profession and patients. Building the next generation of Advocacy leaders is also a primary focus – thus look for more opportunities in the near future to engage emerging advocates and involve Fellows in Training and Early Career Professionals in Advocacy programs and activities. The ACC Political Action Committee is another very important way to strengthen the voice of cardiology in the halls of Congress.

To paraphrase ACC CEO Timothy Attebery, DSc, MBA, FACHE, we must protect our fortress while simultaneously marching bravely forward to explore the frontier. I believe these priorities, coupled with our own strength and courage, will move the College and the profession forward for the ultimate benefit of the patients we have pledged our professional lives to serve.

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Thad F. Waites, MD, MACC, is chair of the ACC's Health Affairs Committee.

Keywords: ACC Publications, Cardiology Magazine, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S., United States Food and Drug Administration, Leadership, Trustees, Equipment Safety, Burnout, Professional, Workplace, Medicaid, Medicare, Health Policy, Cause of Death, Fee Schedules, Health Care Costs, Government Programs, Patient Care, Electronic Health Records, Tobacco Use, Cardiovascular Diseases

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