Physicians as Patient and Health Advocates at ACC’s 2016 Legislative Conference

September 9, 2016 | Ben Kenigsberg, MD

What does it mean to be a physician advocate?

Through 8 years of medical school, internal medicine residency and general cardiology fellowship, I have an intuitive understanding of the clinical role of a physician. But what does it mean to be an advocate? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines advocacy as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal”. Clearly, the field of medicine is in flux with extraordinary scientific developments in targeted pharmacologic therapies and device technology. As physicians, we categorically support scientific inquiry.

Medicine is also in flux though via the changing nature of American health care delivery. The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) are two of the biggest developments in health policy since the Social Security Amendments of 1965 that established Medicare and Medicaid. The coming years and decades will likely see fundamental changes in practice pattern, health care delivery models and reimbursement for all medical fields, including cardiovascular disease. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently proposed a bundled payment reimbursement model for select cardiac services. Instead of ignoring these impending changes, as physicians we should support and help guide the development and implantation of public health reforms as physician advocates.

ACC's annual Legislative Conference represents the College’s efforts to directly advocate for cardiovascular practitioners and patients. I will be attending the Legislative Conference this September to add my support to this cause and to learn how to be a more effective physician advocate.

The conference schedule includes educational sessions on regulatory changes, legislative action and the state of cardiology, in addition to direct meetings with Congressional leadership. This year the ACC will focus on advocacy in three critical areas: ensuring the implementation of MACRA is not administratively burdensome and does not interfere with the delivery of high-quality cardiovascular care; innovation and research through increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and H.R. 3355/S. 488, a bill that would expand access to cardiac rehabilitation by allowing physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to supervise cardiac, intensive cardiac, and pulmonary rehabilitation programs. This three part legislative prioritization encompasses the role of a physician advocate by supporting progress in health care delivery, fostering scientific innovation and promoting policy that improves the experience and care of individual patients.

I hope to see you there or at future Legislative Conferences!

This article is authored by Ben Kenigsberg, MD, a Fellow in Training at MedStar Washington Hospital Center/Georgetown University Hospital