As I begin my presidential term, I would first like to thank each of you, colleagues and friends, for the honor of serving you during 2010–2011. I know that the upcoming year will bring many challenges and changes, especially related to new federal laws and regulations. You can rest assured that the ACR is committed to promoting the needs of the profession, our membership, and especially our patients during these rapidly changing times.
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Explore This IssueDecember 2010
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My decisions and priorities as president will be guided by the new ACR strategic plan, which is available for review at www.rheumatology.org. This modernized plan, developed by ACR members and staff, includes updated goals and strategies and a new, concise mission statement that will lead us through 2012.
The mission, “Advancing Rheumatology,” is inclusive enough to comfortably encompass the concerns of our diverse membership. Staying strategic and working with the plan will help us advance rheumatology in our ever-changing healthcare environment and to prepare the ACR to respond effectively to what’s ahead. In this column, I want to highlight a few of the many ACR projects that I believe will strategically move the ACR forward in its mission to advance rheumatology. This sampling of projects reflects the variety of levels at which ACR is working to improve the practice of rheumatology—from national policy to the rheumatology clinic.
Despite the fact that few rheumatologists characterize themselves as “pain physicians, pain is such an important and cross-cutting aspect of our clinical care that the Board of Directors has approved an initiative for all ACR committees to begin incorporating pain issues into their priorities for the upcoming year.
Rheumatology at the Macro Level
In November, you were introduced to our new Influencing the Influencers public relations (PR) campaign. The PR campaign will advance rheumatology by providing awareness and understanding of our specialty to key stakeholders who have direct influence in the healthcare environment. Key stakeholders include the national legislators and policymakers, administration officials, advocacy leaders, and physician groups. This campaign, along with our current government affairs activities, will continue building relationships to reiterate the message of who rheumatologists are, what we do, and how we provide effective care for our patients. The goal of our efforts is the improved valuation and influence of our subspecialty on those developing public policy.
Impact of Federal Policies on Rheumatology Practice
The ACR is staying actively involved in evaluating our rapidly changing healthcare environment. The Government Affairs Committee is monitoring the Federal Register to review and comment on newly released regulations that may affect payment reform options and demonstration projects.
The Committee on Rheumatologic Care and the ideal practice task force are researching some of the new payment systems such as accountable care organizations and the patient-centered medical home to determine how they will affect rheumatologists. In light of these potential changes, these committees are developing products that will help physicians improve their practices, including a benchmark survey that will allow members to enter information from their practice and receive regional and national comparison data.
The Affordable Care Act includes provisions that affect medical education and the distribution of associated funds. The potential impact of this redistribution will be monitored by the Workforce and Training Committee to determine how our subspecialty can benefit from increased resources for rheumatology education.
Because the scope of work concerning the healthcare environment crosses so many committees, a task force will be appointed to coordinate ACR efforts in understanding the impact of the new Affordable Care Act and other federal policies on rheumatology practice, academic rheumatology, and our organization.
Improve Practice at the Site of Care
The mission of advancing rheumatology cannot be fully realized without also providing resources to help our members improve practice at the site of care. The multitudes of data generated daily in rheumatology practice hold great promise to help us better understand and improve clinical care. Registries are widely recognized as a successful way to gather this information.
The Rheumatology Clinical Registry (RCR), launched in 2009, is a free online tool for ACR members that integrates evidence-based quality measures and drug safety for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and gout. Already, more than 250 members have entered data on more than 9,000 patients into the RCR. We were successful from initiation in establishing the RCR as a means of reporting data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI) program, and both PQRI and CMS e-Prescribing reporting are available using the RCR in 2010.
Despite the RCR’s initial success, however, we recognize that registries must become seamless components of our overall health information technology infrastructure. The ACR is actively moving in that direction with a pilot of an electronic health record–enhanced version of the RCR, which will provide a mechanism for practice improvement, meeting external quality reporting requirements, and real-world research queries.
Focus on Pain Initiatives
It goes without saying that our primary motivation to advance rheumatology is to meet the needs of our patients. Almost all of our patients deal with pain on a regular basis. In fact, pain is the most common symptom of patients with rheumatic disorders and can occur in both inflammatory and noninflammatory conditions.1
Despite the fact that few rheumatologists characterize themselves as “pain physicians,” pain is such an important and cross-cutting aspect of our clinical care that the Board of Directors has approved an initiative for all ACR committees to begin incorporating pain issues into their priorities for the upcoming year. This ACR-wide focus on pain initiatives will support rheumatology providers in offering optimized care for patients with painful rheumatic diseases.
Changes in our professional lives are occurring rapidly. The ACR is aware of these changes and plans to respond in an expeditious and effective manner. I hope that each of you will take an active role in the ACR during my 2010–2011 presidential year. With your participation and suggestions, we will all advance rheumatology.
Dr. Borenstein is clinical professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at George Washington University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., and in private practice at Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates there. Contact him via e-mail at [email protected].