CEO Report: Changing Perception

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April 1, 2013 Volume 77, Number 4
CEO Report: Changing Perception Paul Pomerantz

Perception doesn’t always equal reality. Trauma and emergency medicine get a lot of attention on television shows, movies, and even in the news. Audiences are left with indelible images of heroic surgeons and dashing EMT crews. In fact, trauma care is a team endeavor, with each specialty and provider playing their essential roles. The media rarely highlights the anesthesiologist. However, those who work in emergency environments know the truth – that is, the important role anesthesiologists play in maintaining the essential life functions of trauma patients and leading the creation of new technologies, procedures and processes that improve survival and safety. The excellent articles on trauma in this issue of the NEWSLETTER should serve as powerful reminders of anesthesiology’s leadership and commitment to quality care. They also remind me, personally, of ASA’s increasingly important task of making sure policymakers, other health care providers and the public are fully aware of this fact.

One of ASA’s top priorities now and in the future is educating policymakers and the public about your roles inside and outside of the O.R., emergency room and ICU. How are we doing this? By adding talented staff who are experts in their targeted areas and by unifying, refocusing and resourcing our organizational structure in both the Park Ridge and Washington, D.C. offices. We recently reorganized our Washington, D.C. office to better represent our member needs and the talents of the individuals who work there. The previously named “Office of Governmental Affairs” didn’t even come close to describing the work our staff in D.C. performed. Now, this department has been replaced by five units led and staffed by well-credentialed, experienced individuals.

These five departments are led by Manuel Bonilla, who was named on March 4 to Chief Advocacy Officer. Manny has served ASA for 16 years and is well known across ASA for his depth of knowledge and considerable skills. The departments are:

  • Congressional and Political Affairs (led by Manuel E. Bonilla, M.S.)
  • Health Policy Research (led by Thomas R. Miller, Ph.D., M.B.A.)
  • Payment and Practice Management (led by Sharon K. Merrick, M.S., CCS-P)
  • Quality and Regulatory Affairs (led by Maureen Amos, M.S., CPHQ)
  • State Affairs (led by Jason Hansen, M.S., J.D.)

  • More staff in a more streamlined structure means increased advocacy for you and your patients. If you check the “Washington Alerts” section of the website, you’ll see our D.C. staff is involved in every significant legislative issue affecting our specialty, whether at the grassroots, state or federal level. We have the largest political action committee in medicine, and anesthesiology is increasingly becoming recognized by policymakers as a patient-centered political force. Through a consistent and powerful presence, our messages are starting to stick.

    Just like the teams in the trauma setting, our advocacy professionals in Washington are teaming with our com-munications and publications professionals in Park Ridge to improve and extend our messaging to policymakers at every level of government and, as importantly, to the public at large. Working with outside public relations partners, ASA is currently developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to strengthen our communications initiatives over the next year.

    Even as we do this, the team uses every tool from ASA’s considerable resources. A case in point: in February, I met with the editorial board of the journal Anesthesiology for their yearly planning session. It was here I learned how effectively our communications and public relations efforts have been in disseminating our messages to the public. Through ASA’s Journal Press Release Program, the communications and public relations team produces consumer-friendly press releases reporting on cutting-edge studies accepted by Anesthesiology. Created in 2009, the program has been remarkably successful. Each month, the research and clinical work being done by anesthesiologists is distributed to thousands of media markets worldwide. The specialty received positive coverage in 2012 and 2013 from news sources ranging from Outpatient Surgery to ABC News to U.S. News & World Report.

    As we move into 2013, our investments will help to strengthen our ability to influence perceptions about our specialty. One particularly exciting new initiative is the creation of the aforementioned Health Policy Research Department, headed by Thomas R. Miller. You can read Mr. Miller’s inaugural “Policy Matters” column on page 10 of this NEWSLETTER.

    Established last August through collaboration between ASA staff and a physician advisory group of ASA members, the Health Policy Research Department will conduct studies, collect data and work with various departments within ASA for the purpose of informing the public and legislators about questions such as access to care, its cost, and the short- and long-term results of that care. Through further collaboration with the Anesthesia Quality Institute, we will soon have objective, quantifiable data regarding the most pressing issues in anesthesia-related health care. Such data will be a boon to our ongoing messaging efforts.

    2013 is sure to be filled with challenges for the health care field. ASA, though, is well prepared to meet those challenges. Anesthesiologists are leaders in perioperative, emergency and critical care. But we don’t need to preach to the choir. Our current communications and advocacy efforts are focused on reaching those for whom this knowledge can help improve the environment in which you work. In time, we will reshape old perceptions about who anesthesiologists are and what you do. And then, perception will truly equal reality.

    Paul Pomerantz is ASA’s Chief Executive Officer.