More than 225 family physicians from across the country gathered here for the 2018 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit May 21-22 to learn from experts how to work with legislators on wins that improve their practices and their patients' lives.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tells physicians at the 2018 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit about legislation he's working on to encourage physicians to practice in rural areas.
The summit gave physicians the chance to get advice on effective lobbying directly from members of Congress and their staff members, as well as from other government officials, policy experts and professional lobbyists. And then the physicians teamed up with colleagues from their states and turned the tables, walking into the offices of their senators and representatives to advise the legislators on measures that could fix the nation's health care system.
The AAFP armed members with plenty of resources to strengthen their requests from legislators, but they learned that the most compelling resources are things they carry with them everywhere: their patients' stories.
"Here's something that I think is really important to take a moment to think about," Robert Hall, J.D., the AAFP's director of government relations, told attendees. "When you have the most impactful and effective meetings with people, generally it's not because of a specific statistic, right? A lot of the time, it's actually about an emotional story that you can bring across."
Right now, Hall said, the stories that would best help advance family medicine are those that touch on
- maternal mortality,(2 page PDF)
- rural graduate medical education,(2 page PDF)
- the need for a standard primary care benefit in high-deductible health plans,(2 page PDF)
- the opioid crisis,(2 page PDF)
- stabilizing the insurance market,(2 page PDF) and
- ways to support primary care in value-based payment models.(2 page PDF)
On the second day of the conference, members took their messages into more than 250 meetings with legislators and their staff members.
On maternal mortality, for example, physicians reminded legislators that maternal and child care are core elements of family medicine, and that family physicians provide vital obstetric care in many rural areas. The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act(www.congress.gov) and Maternal Health Accountability Act(www.congress.gov) could help them provide better care by funding research into how pregnancies can be made safer, the physicians told legislators and their staffs.
"Things are becoming worse and worse in this area, and it really is becoming a crisis," Hall said. "We need better data about what's going on out there."
FPs also asked legislators to support a draft bill that Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., plans to introduce. Gardner told AAFP members during the first day of the conference that he is working on the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act with the goal of putting more physicians in the areas that most need them.
"We're trying to make sure we get these physicians out of medical school and into our rural areas because it's kind of obvious that the greatest determining factor in where you end up practicing is oftentimes linked directly to where you do your residency," Gardner said. "It's kind of common sense, really."
When members advocate on these topics, Hall advised them to focus on concise stories that show how the issues affect the care physicians can provide to their patients.
"All of these challenges are real and we can have a good impact on how we get the federal government to be responsive to the real challenges you're seeing face to face," Hall said. "That's by telling your story, passing along good information -- trying to get to the position where they think of you late at night when they're trying to grab something for the boss real quick: 'Oh, I remember that doctor who had that really good story. I'm going to reach out to them.'"