Today's News

Thursday, March 11, 2004

AAOS launches grassroots campaign for medical liability reform

By Carolyn Rogers

The AAOS recently rolled out a crucial element of its Medical Liability Reform Program, its grassroots public education campaign - "Protect Access, Care and Treatment" (PACT).

The PACT campaign does not directly address national liability reform legislation; that task is being managed by the "Doctors for Medical Liability Reform" coalition, of which the AAOS is a leading member. (See related article in this section.) Instead, this program seeks to empower state societies, members and the patients they serve to advocate for and drive meaningful, constitutionally sustainable medical liability reform in their states.

PACT advocacy "toolkit"

To facilitate grassroots advocacy on liability reform, a print and electronic advocacy toolkit was developed for use by individual orthopaedic surgeons and state societies. The kit contains a variety of print and electronic resources designed for both patient education and mobilization and direct physician outreach to the general public, media and policymakers.

Many items contained in the toolkit can be downloaded from the campaign Web site, www.pactproject.org. The kit contains a wide variety of advocacy tools, including talking points; questions-and-answers; patient brochures; wall posters; sample letters to patients and to referring physicians; a CD-ROM PowerPoint presentation for doctors to use at community meeting to educate people about the liability issue; a sample op-ed piece; a sample letter to the editor and a medical liability video targeted directly at patients.

To view a sample of the toolkit and/or to request your own free copy, please visit the Medical Liability Reform Campaign booth, located near the registration area in Moscone West.

Campaign strategists

A team of strategic communication specialists is working with the AAOS to bring the PACT campaign to life. This team includes: GCI Group, a New York City-based public relations firm; Grey Global Atlanta, a marketing communications firm; and Washington D.C.-based Grassroots Enterprise, Inc., a company that combines online technology and communications strategy to achieve public affairs objectives.

In November 2003, all of the campaign's "key players" gathered at the AAOS State Societies Strategy Meeting in Rosemont, Ill., to provide orthopaedists with an overview of the campaign. The specialists in attendance included Mike McCurry, former White House spokesperson under the Clinton Administration, who now serves as chairman of Grassroots Enterprise, Inc. McCurry is a senior political consultant on this project, providing expertise from a communication and legislative standpoint.

"A failure to communicate"

The lack of progress on medical liability reform thus far is due to "the very nature of our political system," McCurry said. "The root of so much that is bedeviling our political system today is a large-scale, systematic failure to communicate.

"When an important, complicated issue like medical liability reform is put in front of an audience, it very quickly turns to a default of 'who's got the more compelling, angry story?'" he explained.

For medical liability reform advocates to get their message across, "we must be more compelling," McCurry said. "We must be more personal. We must engage the patient. And ultimately, we have to use some of the very technologies that are right now discombobulating the system in order to break through it.

"Our goal is to be much more innovative and creative and to try to design arguments that win," he says. "We want to animate the human side of the equation by getting people to care about the issue personally in a way that they probably don't right now."

Core campaign messages

Getting people to care about the issue is the focus of PACT's key campaign messages, said Mark Marinello, GCI vice president and director of public affairs.

Based on the team's research, knowledge of the issue and experience with other successful health care campaigns, three key messages were developed:

     Rationale message: Skyrocketing medical liability insurance premiums jeopardize patient access to care, and the crisis directly affects the cost of health care for all Americans.

     Solution message: Reasonable medical liability reform will stabilize this threat to the American health care system

     Call-to-Action Message: Tell your lawmakers that you support medical liability reform.

Print, radio, TV advertising

A PACT ad campaign was developed for state societies to adapt for use in their own states. Although the AAOS will not be able to fund the placement of ads at the national level, "in play" state societies are strongly urged to fund the strategic placement of paid ads as part of their communications blitz.

"The ads pose the medical liability crisis not as a problem for doctors, but as an access-to-care problem for patients," said Joel Babbit, president and chief creative officer of Grey Global Atlanta, the outside agency that developed the ads.

The series includes the following print, radio, video and television ads:

Grassroots, online activism

Another key area is that of "coalition building." This effort is being led by Bill McIntyre, vice president for strategic communications at Grassroots Enterprise, Inc., and Grassroots president, Arvin Rajan.

"To succeed in its legislative agenda, the AAOS needs to expand its base of supporters well beyond its membership," McIntyre said. This will be accomplished in three key phases.

In the recruitment phase, potential stakeholders beyond AAOS membership are identified, and highly targeted programs are implemented to recruit them.

A campaign Web site for each state is part of the education phase. The site will include information for supporters, potential allies, reporters, legislators and their staffs. It will give supporters the opportunity to share real-life case studies/observations, and features an 'Action Center.'

In the mobilization stage, the campaign will use Grassroots Multiplier®, a software program developed by Grassroots Enterprise, Inc. that provides an integrated platform that galvanizes stakeholders to take action, tracks their responses, and delivers real-time reports on the progress of the campaign.

"Grassroots Multiplier enables states to target segments of their activism database with the right calls to action, driving them to the campaign Web site," McIntyre said. "There, supporters are automatically matched up to the correct targets, such as their local newspaper or legislator, and are prompted to take the appropriate action."

For more information on the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Public Education Campaign, visit the Medical Liability Reform Campaign booth, located adjacent to the registration area in Moscone West or contact Sandy Gordon, director of public education and media relations, at gordon@aaos.org.

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Last modified 01/March/2004