Sunday’s joint meeting of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Regents (B/R) and Board of Governors (B/G) outlined strategies to enhance communication with the Fellows they represent, identified underused College resources to promote the organization’s brand, and provided an update on ACS health policy initiatives.
“All of you have a strong history of communication—you explain complex surgical procedures to patients and their families, and you direct others in the care of these patients,” said David J. Welsh, MD, MBA, FACS, B/G Communications Pillar Lead. “To engage in effective communication, you have to carefully choose your message, target your audience, choose the correct medium for communication, and assess feedback,” Dr. Welsh said.
“Irrelevant messages can cause harm. How many of us have deleted e-mails from certain sources because we are tired of hearing from them? You don’t want your messages to become part of the problem,” he added.
Surgeon-leaders can convey a message through a range of platforms, including print media, e-mail, social media, and the ACS Communities. A real-time interactive survey of meeting participants conducted by Dr. Welsh revealed that 42 percent use at least two platforms to communicate to the Fellows whom they represent.
“Feedback is essential to effective communication,” said Dr. Welsh, encouraging attendees to engage in active listening and to closely monitor response rates to hone communication strategies. According to the interactive survey, 69 percent of attendees were unaware of their response rates when communicating with colleagues.
“How soon after you return home do you plan to message your Fellows?” asked Dr. Welsh. A total of 39 percent responded “within a week,” while 49 percent responded “within a month’s time.”
“Be that conduit that I know you can be between Fellows at home and the College,” he said, underscoring the range of ACS resources available to help surgeons provide optimal care to their patients. “Effective communication offers opportunities to strengthen our organization and to help our members,” Dr. Welsh said.
“We all serve as ACS ambassadors on a daily basis by our conversations, our comportment, our example as leaders at home and nationally,” said Terry L. Buchmiller, MD, FACS, B/G Member Services Pillar Lead, introducing the next presentation on strategies for promoting the ACS brand and enhancing member retention and recruitment. “The ACS has tremendous resources, including the website, print, and personnel. The challenge is that most of us are episodic volunteers,” added Dr. Buchmiller, noting that these tools are “hard to remember if we are not using them daily.”
Dr. Buchmiller led an interactive Cyber Scavenger Hunt intended to test attendees’ skills using the ACS website to locate information on a spectrum of topics, including chapter officers, B/G Workgroups, ACS Advisory Councils, Continuing Medical Education, and the ACS Archives. “The search function and the organization of the home page are both helpful,” Dr. Buchmiller said after the winners of the scavenger hunt were announced, although during the session’s question and answer segment some attendees vocalized the need for enhanced search functionality to help refine search criteria for more specific queries that are less time-consuming.
Dr. Buchmiller revealed the “hidden gems” of facs.org based on usage data compiled by the College’s website and Information Technology staff. “The Bulletin, the ACS Foundation, Strong for Surgery, and patient education are under-realized according to these numbers, and we can promote all of these resources because they are common to all of our practices,” she said.
Marshall Z. Schwartz, MD, FACS, Vice-Chair, B/R, identified two key objectives for the Comprehensive Communications Committee, which he chairs: A Fellows’ campaign and a public campaign. “Our new campaign must engage our Fellows and encourage potential members to join the ACS and have them feel good about having FACS after their names,” said
Dr. Schwartz. “We want our members to feel that we represent their professional interests and that the College provides the tools to facilitate their priorities,” he said, noting that “advocacy has been the number one priority of our Fellows for more than 10 years.”
“We need to not only focus on our Fellows, although that is a key issue for us, but also the public,” he said. “We do a tremendous amount of things for the general public, yet I don’t think we communicate effectively enough to them about what we do,” he said, citing hospital standards of care, trauma standards, and the ACS National Quality Improvement Program and other College-led Quality Programs. “These programs are superb, but the public doesn’t really know about them, and if they do, do they associate them with the ACS?”
“With the paradigm shift in how health care will be delivered going forward, resources both at the federal and state levels are going to be reassigned,” Dr. Schwartz said in his closing remarks. “We will need a strong ally—the public.”
The Joint Session concluded with a presentation by leaders of the Division of Advocacy and Health Policy, including Christian Shalgian, Director; Patrick V. Bailey, MD, MLS, FACS, Medical Director, Advocacy; and Frank G. Opelka, MD, FACS, Medical Director, Quality and Health Policy. Dr. Bailey described seven significant changes to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for 2019, including adjusting in performance category weights, redefining low-volume threshold, allowing clinicians to opt-in to MIPS, and requiring use of 2015 edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology. The final rule is expected to be released November 1, and implementation is anticipated to begin in January.
Other health policy updates included an overview of legislative and regulatory accomplishments benefitting surgeons and their patients, such as easing meaningful use requirements, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years, and increasing funding for cancer research (now the highest level of funding in 15 years). “We have accomplished a lot this year despite having a Congress with the lowest approval rating,” Mr. Shalgian said.