Today's News

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Town Hall session lively and topical

By Carolyn Rogers

The atmosphere at Friday's Town Hall Meeting was a bit less "charged" than last year's lively session, but many AAOS members again made their voices heard on a wide range of issues af-fecting orthopaedics.

AAOS President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD; Richard F. Kyle, MD, first vice president, and Robert W. Bucholz, MD, first past president, as well as Council chairmen and AAOS staff members were on hand to answer members' questions and respond to comments on a number of topics, ranging from medical liability reform and standards of care to medical saving accounts and direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies.

The session, which was held immediately following the Business Meetings, had no set agenda and was moderated by Robert H. Haralson III, MD, MBA, executive director of medical affairs.

Brian S. Ziegler, MD-who earned a standing ovation at last year's Town Hall for an impassioned statement that called on the AAOS to implement an expert witness review board-spoke yesterday as well.

A much happier Dr. Ziegler stepped to the microphone this year, primarily to commend the AAOS leadership for responding to members' needs, and to express his support for the Academy's new Expert Witness Program and the proposed Standards of Professionalism.

"I want to thank the Academy leadership for all the excellent work they've done in developing the Professional Compliance Program," he said. "I think this program will be extremely effective in eliminating false and misleading expert testimony, which I believe is [partly responsible] for the malpractice situation that we have today."

Acknowledging this year's lower turnout, Dr. Ziegler suggested this might be due "not to a lack of interest among the membership, but rather is reflective of members' happiness that there is no 'hot button' issue that is not being addressed at this time."

Another member brought up the ongoing efforts by radiologists' to prevent other physicians from providing X-rays and other imaging services in their offices-an issue he believes is still "under the radar screen" of most orthopaedists.

David Lovett, JD, director of the Washington office, responded to the question, explaining that the radiology community is trying to position itself as the most appropriate imaging providers and attacking the motives of physicians who provide these services outside of an imaging facility or hospital.

Proposals to curb imaging by non-radiologists have surfaced in several states, and the radiologists are using legislative, regulatory and media channels to give this issue national importance.

In addition, "the American College of Radiology (ACR) has been going to Capitol Hill to convince legislators that non-radiologists are over-utilizing imaging services," Lovett said. "We've been responding by going out on the Hill, and we've also created a coalition of 26 medical groups, 'Physicians for Patient-Centered Imaging,' which is meeting regularly."

The coalition aims to preserve physicians' right to perform imaging tests for their patients, and is actively refuting the radiologists' claims by providing information about the appropriate use of imaging in managing patient care to legislators, payer organizations, and the public.

Unfortunately, "this issue, and their claims about over-utilization is undermining our efforts to correct the Medicare payment formula," Lovett said.

Like last year, several members were still lined up at the microphones-questions in hand-when the session drew to a close.

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