Short Town Hall Meeting long on issues
By Carolyn Rogers
In an abbreviated Town Hall Meeting during the AAOS Annual Meeting, members echoed the need for unity, a central theme in the presidential address of Richard F. Kyle, MD, which preceded the meeting.
The members’ comments—which centered on the need for the AAOS to advocate on behalf of orthopaedists—underscored the importance of unity not only in orthopaedics, but within the entire house of medicine.
(From left) AAOS President Richard F. Kyle, MD; Past President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD; and First Vice President James H. Beaty, MD, were ready to respond to members' concerns during the Town Hall Meeting.
On hand to respond to members’ questions and concerns were AAOS President Richard F. Kyle, MD; James H. Beaty, MD, first vice president; and Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, past president; as well as council chairs and senior AAOS staff members. Robert H. Haralson III, MD, MBA, executive director of medical affairs, served as moderator.
A number of fellows urged the AAOS to take positions on matters such as pay-for-performance initiatives; direct access to physical therapists and physicians’ right to employ physical therapists; as well as various issues surrounding hospital-physician relationships.
Drs. Kyle, Beaty and Weinstein assured the audience that the AAOS is investigating these issues, and is developing—or has already published—appropriate position statements and resource materials. They also detailed other advocacy efforts the AAOS is carrying out on behalf of orthopaedic surgeons, as well as their patients.
Scott B. Scutchfield, MD, of Kentucky, wanted to know what actions the AAOS is taking on pay-for-performance, citing concerns that it will lead to further regulations and may reward physicians for “cheaper performance” rather than “quality performance.”
The AAOS is working “very aggressively” in Washington, D.C., Dr. Weinstein responded, and is meeting with various senators and representatives to advocate for a strong role by physicians in developing any program.
“In these meetings we’ve made it clear that we’re very much in favor of improving the quality of care,” he said. “We’ve stressed that these measures must be developed by the people who deliver the care, and that they must be evidence-based, pilot-tested, phased-in and risk-adjusted.”
He added that a pay-for-performance program under Medicare should not be punitive against physicians. Instead, an incentive fund should be added to reward physicians for quality performance.
An orthopaedist from Brighton, Mich., stated that “physical therapists are waging war against our ability to use physical therapy services in our offices.” He also expressed concern about efforts to prevent orthopaedists from employing athletic trainers in their practices.
“What is the Academy’s action plan?” he asked.
“We’ve always maintained that physicians are in the best position (as well as legally, ethically and professionally responsible) to decide what type of care is required for the patient, as well as which health care professional should provide that care,” Dr. Weinstein responded.
AAOS leaders recently met with the American Physical Therapy Association, as well as the National Athletic Trainers Association, to address these issues directly, said Dr. Weinstein. He also reported that the AAOS will be filing an amicus curiae brief in a South Carolina physical therapy access case. In addition, AAOS wrote a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier this year that specifically addressed this issue. (See cover story)
“This is really a patient care issue,” Dr. Kyle added.
Kathleen Weaver, MD, of Mexico, Mo., was among those who lined up at the microphones to ask questions and express their concerns.
Nearly all the questions and concerns expressed during the Town Hall Meeting underscored the fact that politics has an immediate impact on patient care and the practice of medicine. Differences among physicians on issues such as reimbursement, on-call trauma coverage and hospital negotiations need to be resolved within the medical community so they cannot be used as divisive wedges, Dr. Weinstein said. Fortunately, the AAOS has a long history of building coalitions and consensus within the medical community.
“There’s also a growing recognition among physicians that we need to have a presence when decisions are being made that affect the practice of medicine,” said Dr. Weinstein.
“There’s a change in the culture,” he said. “If you’re not at the table, you don’t have a voice.”
Although orthopaedics leads all other medical specialties in PAC donations, only 16 percent of AAOS members have contributed to the Orthopaedic PAC. More than 90 percent of trial lawyers contribute to their PAC, pointed out Dr. Kyle.
“It’s not in the physician culture to be politically involved, but that has to change,” Dr. Weinstein said. “Donating to the PAC has to become a part of our yearly culture: You pay your dues and you pay your PAC fees.”
If members were hesitant to make a contribution to the PAC because they doubted its ability to be successful in its efforts, Dr. Kyle suggested they look at recent victories—such as the $7.5 million in defense funding for orthopaedic extremity trauma research secured by the AAOS late last year.
“We’ve demonstrated that we can be successful in Washington, which I hope will inspire more members to contribute,” he said.