CEO Report: Meeting of the Minds

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October 1, 2013 Volume 77, Number 10
CEO Report: Meeting of the Minds Paul Pomerantz, CEO

In just a couple weeks, thousands of the best minds in the specialty will arrive in San Francisco for the largest anesthesia education-related event in the world – the ANESTHESIOLOGY™ 2013 annual meeting. As I prepare this column, our elected leadership, volunteers and staff are hard at work finalizing every detail and also working to prepare for the House of Delegates (HOD) meeting. As of early September, registration is proceeding at a record pace, including a high percentage of international delegates from more than 75 countries. I look forward to meeting you in person and learning in-depth the many trends and challenges facing the specialty.

It is now six months since I formally started work as your CEO. In this column, I will share some highlights and some observations about the future.

First, let me start by thanking the officers, the Board of Directors, HOD and so many of you who have welcomed me to ASA and have been very generous with your time and guidance. In this initial period, I have had the opportunity to interact with members in a range of settings, from component society to national meetings (Practice Management and Legislative conferences). I have also had the opportunity to visit several practice settings, including an academic health system, community health system and a private pain practice, and I plan to do more in the next year.

Anesthesiology is a dynamic specialty very much at the center of many of the challenges facing medicine today. It requires an organization that is volunteer-driven, member-focused, flexible, facile, and has the necessary depth and strength to support its objectives. Although we are a professional society, we also function in business-like fashion. ASA, in fact, is a sizable organization with a staff of 140 and an operating budget of more than $42 million.

I joined ASA at a very busy time and have been able to build on the strong work of interim CEO Barbara Fossum. The most important work is the least sexy. This has included getting to know volunteers and staff, building the staff team and working with staff to align strategic priorities with objectives and operating plans.

Key priorities during this period have also included the following:

  • Building organizational capacity: With the approval of the Administrative Council (AC), we have recruited and “on-boarded” key staff to support needs in advocacy, education, information technology and other areas. We have launched projects to upgrade our enterprise-wide association management system, our website and learning management system. While most improvements will take several months to complete, members will soon see improvements in search, appearance and mobile capabilities. Finally, we have been very engaged with the planning and building for our new headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois.

  • Planning process: Like any organization of our size, ASA must engage in strategic planning and the means to implement those plans through a resource allocation (budget) process. I have worked with our President-Elect, Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D., our Treasurer, James D. Grant, M.D., and finance staff on the 2014 budget. Moreover, we have worked with the AC on improvements to the strategic planning process so that plan and budget development are more effectively linked. This new process will kick into place beginning in 2014 for the 2015 budget year.

  • Advocacy: I had the good fortune of working with our committees and advocacy staff on a number of activities, including the development of our Health Policy Research program, scope-of-practice issues and regulatory activity associated with the SEDASYS® Computer-Assisted Personalized Sedation System. Of particular interest is the recent launch of our public education endeavor, “When Seconds Count ... Physician Anesthesiologists Save Lives™.” This exciting initiative provides a dedicated website and an array of resources focused on empowering members locally and nationally with tested messaging. This program, I believe, addresses one of the specialty’s most critical challenges – the need for public understanding.

  • New products and services: The Ad Hoc Committee on Publications, under the leadership of co-chairs Drs. Jane Fitch and Arnold Berry, has been working to develop a plan for publications and information resources to help meet member’s increasing need for easy-to-find, timely, useful information.

  • External linkage: Increasingly, medical societies can be viewed as part of a health care ecosystem. To paraphrase Wikipedia, an ecosystem is a community of components that interact to form a sustainable system. For ASA to succeed, we need to be conscious of the ecosystem and to establish appropriate links wherever possible. Over the last six months, we have sought relationships with a number of key organizations. In addition to AMA and organized medicine, we have recently become associate members of the American Hospital Association and members of the National Health Council in order to deepen our links with the hospital/health system and patient communities, respectively.

These highlights only scratch the surface. Indeed, it has been a busy six months. I am excited about the momentum at ASA and our plans for the future. However, there are critical challenges. All of these relate to an unrelenting pace of change that again calls for ASA to be resourceful and nimble. The challenges fall into four areas:

  • Continuing public policy challenges, including implementation of the Afordable Care Act, and changes in payment. Central to this is the movement toward forms of bundled payment and linking payment with measures of value and quality.

  • An accelerating rate of change in information and patient care technology.

  • Changing member demographics, including generational differences, and the impact of subspecialization.

  • Evolving models of practice, including practice consolidation in both the private and academic setting.

  • New models of patient care, including development of the Perioperative Surgical Home model of care.

I’d like to thank 2013 President John M. Zerwas, M.D. for his leadership during a year of transition and innovation at ASA. If we are to navigate through the coming changes that are sure to challenge our specialty, we’ll need leaders with his dedication, character, political acumen and compassion to guide us.

As Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D. assumes her role as 2014 president, we can all rest assured that ASA’s standing within medicine will grow. A former nurse anesthetist, Dr. Fitch is often quoted as saying, “my journey is about a quest for knowledge.” Her passion for personal growth will be an inspiration to a society whose potential for growth is literally unlimited.

Come see us in San Francisco! I think you’ll get a good idea of how much we’ve already accomplished in 2013 and what we plan to do in coming years. If a strong meeting indicates a strong and confident membership, then we’re looking into a very bright future.

Paul Pomerantz is ASA Chief Executive Officer.