With Apologies to Mark Twain, Reports of the Death of Organized Medicine Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

CSMS President Robert Russo, MD and CSMS EVP/CEO Matthew Katz recently wrote this op-ed for the Hartford Business Journal on the importance of organized medicine:

With apologies to Mark Twain, reports of the death of organized medicine have been greatly exaggerated.

In a recent HBJ article ("Healthcare consolidation means waning influence for medical societies") two Hartford-area physicians shared their opinions and perspectives about organized medicine and the role of the medical society in today's practice environment.

Connecticut is not the only state facing membership challenges in a rapidly-evolving healthcare environment. Medical societies across the country — states, counties, locals, specialties — are all confronting these issues.

As the state's largest medical association, CSMS has members in every county, every specialty and every practice model. We consider all Connecticut physicians to be potential members, and we do not limit our activities to a certain type of practice or employment status.

In terms of legislative and regulatory influence, CSMS physician advocacy isn't limited to just one or two bills during the months of the legislative session. Our work goes on throughout the year, and has an impact on physicians at every stage of practice, in every specialty, in every county.

In Hartford, CSMS has repeatedly and successfully led efforts to defeat bills that would worsen the state's already-bad medical liability environment. CSMS physician leaders were invited to participate in the Bipartisan Roundtable on Hospitals and Healthcare, co-chaired by Sen. President Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and many of the concerns our physicians raised were addressed in the package of bills introduced by the two senators.

In addition, CSMS-supported legislation passed for opioid overdose prevention, youth athlete concussions, e-cigarettes, pediatric vision screening, and network adequacy for insurance plans.

From a regulatory perspective, CSMS representatives sit on a broad range of state boards and councils: the All Payer Claims Database Advisory Board, the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund Board, the CT Nutrition Council, the CT Public Health Association, the CT Cancer Coalition, and the CT Immunization Coalition. Each of these groups affects the health and well-being of Connecticut residents, so having this consistent physician presence is critical.

CSMS physicians are active participants in the state's Concussion Task Force and the Department of Social Services' Medicaid Advisory Board. CSMS is continuing its collaborative efforts with the Department of Public Health (DPH) on issues of childhood obesity, nutrition and domestic violence.

CSMS physician leaders serve as members of the State Innovation Model (SIM) project, which administers a multi-million dollar federal award to expand primary care, provide greater consistency in quality, and promote value for the healthcare dollar.

CSMS has representatives on the SIM steering committee, Equity and Access Work Group, Health Information Technology Committee, Practice Transformation Task Force and Quality Council.

During last fall's Ebola crisis, CSMS worked closely with DPH to coordinate the sharing of updated clinical guidelines, patient monitoring, office preparedness, and other critical safety information for physicians across the state.

CSMS is making a difference in less well-known areas of health care, too. As part of a multiyear research project, CSMS is examining the significant racial and ethnic disparities in Connecticut hospital readmissions. Our findings have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals, and presented at national medical meetings.

CSMS has used the research to develop innovative and effective cultural competency programs for physicians. In addition to identifying the problem, CSMS is committed to finding solutions to these disparities.

In February, CSMS hosted a symposium bringing together patients and patient advocates, physicians, nurses, and other stakeholders from across the state. We presented our disparities research to the participants, then actively engaged them in identifying barriers and developing potential solutions. In addition, we were honored to have the presidents of the American Medical and the National Medical Association as guest speakers; both publicly commended CSMS for bringing Connecticut to the forefront of this important healthcare quality issue.

CSMS reaches out to the broader community in many other ways. Partnering with several other groups, we were awarded a national grant to develop a leadership curriculum for young physicians that culminated in a two-day summit for residents and fellows earlier this year. This fall, CSMS will host a program with the VA on caring for patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as the resources available through the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) to improve and expand access to care for our veterans.

In November, CSMS will present a full-day program on wellness and integrative medicine. Open to the public, the program will bring together physician leaders, legislators and regulators to discuss new approaches to wellness and integrative medicine.

Continuing medical education is essential to maintaining quality patient care, and CSMS supports this effort by serving as the national Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) designee for Connecticut. CSMS accredits Connecticut hospitals and other organizations as providers of continuing medical education (CME). In 2014, CSMS-accredited programs provided nationally-recognized CME credit to 5,106 Connecticut physicians and 3,699 other healthcare professionals.

Since our founding in 1792, the practice of medicine has certainly changed. The CSMS commitment to represent the interests of physicians and their patients remains as strong as ever.

Click here to view the web version.