AMA's plan for 2008

The American Medical Association lays out strategies to improve the environment in which physicians and patients operate and offers tools for their everyday lives.

Editorial

As physicians ponder their New Year’s resolutions, the American Medical Association has made a few vows of its own for 2008 to help doctors help patients.

The Association’s 2008 Strategic Plan contains these principal commitments in six major areas:

Health care environment. Medicare payment reform, care for the uninsured, medical liability reform, scope of practice and physician work force distribution all fall into this category, where the AMA will seek changes in the state and federal legal and regulatory environments.

Clinical excellence. Quality improvement in health care, patient safety, long-term care and care for the aging, health information technology and health disparities will be predominant areas of focus as the AMA commits itself to advancing clinical processes, techniques and tools physicians use.

Health of the public. Healthy lifestyles, disaster preparedness, immunizations and international medicine are main areas of focus for improvements in public health.

Physician practice viability. Private health plan and payment reform, and consumerism’s impact on health care are two main areas of focus in helping physicians overcome systematic barriers to effective practice management, particularly those that interfere with the patient-physician relationship.

Physician education and professionalism. Transforming medical education, advancing professionalism and ethics, and improving financing for medical students are priorities in the stewardship of the profession’s educational system and work force.

A sustainable AMA. The Association will continue to improve the value of membership — specifically, crafting a clearer definition of the membership value proposition as well as investing in product development to broaden the business revenue portfolio.

Now, these items weren’t chosen by a few people in a closed room. The list was compiled after extensive research — in fact, thousands of grassroots physicians were invited to give their opinion on what they view as the most pressing issues. AMA councils, sections and special groups all voiced their perspectives. Board of Trustee deliberations factored in as well.

Moreover, the strategic plan isn’t just lip service in paper form. The AMA is committed to approaching these crucial issues — often through multi-year campaigns that build upon one another — on two fronts.

First, it is working to change the atmosphere in which physicians do their work. It’s a long-term view that includes improving state and federal laws that hinder physicians and patients. Second, the AMA provides physicians with tools in the areas outlined in the strategic plan to help them do their jobs, given the challenges they currently face.

Take the issue of care for the uninsured. The AMA this year launched its Voice for the Uninsured campaign that will continue into 2008. The AMA is pushing for market reforms that would give all Americans the means to buy health care coverage and give individuals choices to select appropriate coverage for themselves and their families. There are print and television ads. By visiting the campaign’s Web site (www.voicefortheuninsured.org), physicians and patients can link easily to presidential candidate platforms to see how each Oval Office hopeful stands on this issue.

When it comes to facing the private payer dilemma, the AMA continues to push for antitrust relief so physicians would be on a more level playing field with insurance companies that have an enormous edge in contract negotiations. It also gives physicians practical tools they can use in today’s lopsided environment. At the AMA’s Private Sector Advocacy Web site (www.ama-assn.org/go/psa), doctors can find everything from a Model Managed Care Contract to steps on how to challenge their profile or placement in a tiered or narrow network.

And there is plenty going on to promote healthy lifestyles. The AMA is continuing the push to get rid of junk food in schools and end smoking in movies. It also provides physicians with clinical tools to help them assess patients’ readiness to manage obesity as well as handouts for patients about physical activity and weight loss management.

2008 will be another busy year as the AMA works on the most important professional and public health issues. And in keeping with Association’s “Together we are stronger” motto, there are plenty of things individual doctors can do to address the critical public health and professional issues facing patients and physicians alike. Perhaps a New Year’s resolution or two could include something from the AMA’s plan.
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