Monday, March 31, 2014

Preserve HPM's Efforts to Improve Care for the Seriously Ill

For a long time hospice and palliative medicine have been wearing the mantle of outsider; never really understood by the rest of health care, or even the public, a growing group of clinicians and advocates kept pressing to deliver great quality and compassionate care. You might even hear insiders lament about how it is tough to get any respect or attention from some of the bigger, powerful organizations in health care locally, regionally and nationally. Well I’m here to tell you, we have made a BIG breakthrough, because the cool kids are starting to ask us to come sit at their table.

But this doesn't happen for free. To get here, it has taken a lot of volunteer sweat equity and time, but now as our field begins to play a larger role, more resources are needed. One critical area is our participation in the American Medical Association. If you were at the recent Annual Assembly of AAHPM and HPNA in San Diego, you likely heard a few requests to join the American Medical Association before April 1st. You may have read this excellent post by Dr. Paul Tatum on GeriPal, or past AAHPM President Dr. Ron Crossno on the AAHPM blog. Both have stellar examples of why every physician member of the AAHPM needs to sign up for the AMA. If you really don’t have time to read them, I’ll make it simple.

1. We are making a difference.
Our AAHPM delegate is Chad Kollas, MD, FACP, FCLM, FAAHPM and he is currently chair of the Pain and Palliative Medicine Section Council. What a great leadership role to have, and such a sad one to have to abdicate. We are also influential in the House of Delegates. See the AAHPM post for more details.

2. We are networking.
Because of our visibility in the AMA, other organizations are realizing the importance of collaboration with a group that crosses so many different specialties. And when we get involved with organizations we can help make sure their policies and advocacy efforts improve care for the seriously ill and those at the end of life. If you sign up for the AMA just this year, you are helping people you will never ever meet. You’re a pretty great person.

3. We’re on probation (and we already used our ‘get out of jail free’ card).
To cast a vote, chair committees, and essentially participate in AMA leadership we need to have 20% of AAHPM members be a part of the AMA. If we don’t meet this threshold by April 1st, then all the progress we have made in the last 5 years when we got an exception*, start to erode.

*Yes we already asked for a pass once and it was granted. Not so sure they will let that happen again.

4. I never ask someone to do something, if I have not done it myself.
Five years ago when this issue came up, I signed up for the AMA, despite having some reservations about their goals and process. You may have some of your own barriers. But we can’t fix this problem without engaging, and so I have signed up again this year. This is an investment in my own career, the career of many of my friends, and the care of the people I most want to help. And when you add that up,
it is a pretty small ask.

For just over $1 per day you can sign up for the AMA (and join the AAHPM if you have not done that either!) by April 1st, so we can show we really care about changing palliative medicine in the United States. Even better after you sign up, convince a colleague to follow through as well.

To make sure your membership is counted, please do two things - 1) make sure your primary specialty is listed as 'palliative medicine' with the AMA. You can do this by phone or on the Online Data Collection Center (AMA) and 2) complete this 20 second survey with AAHPM.

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