American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®


The College plans for the future, identifies four strategic themes

From the May 1997 ACP Observer, copyright 1997 by the American College of Physicians.

By John Tooker, FACP

In identifying strategic themes and directions for the 1998-1999 fiscal year (which begins July 1, 1998), ACP's Board of Regents have decided to focus on how managed care is changing the practice environment—and how the College can help its members respond to those changes. The Board of Regents completed this segment of its strategic planning process at Annual Session in Philadelphia.

Identifying themes and directions is an important part of ACP's planning. The process allows the College to respond to changes in the practice environment on behalf of ACP members and their patients. ACP begins its strategic planning each fall, when key College committees (Education, Finance, Health and Public Policy, Membership and Publications), the Board of Governors and the Council of Associates review how the environment of medicine is affecting internists. The assessments of these individual committees are then collated into a single environmental assessment that the Board of Regents reviews and eventually approves at its winter meeting.

Because the practice environment is so complex, ACP's environmental assessment looks at the social, ethical, legal and financial influences on the practice of medicine, as well as a traditional review of medical practice. The review attempts not only to describe the current practice environment, but also to anticipate change.

Once the Board of Regents approves the environmental assessment, strategic themes and directions are developed that will allow the College to respond to the needs of members and their patients. The strategic themes and directions are reviewed and approved by the Board of Regents at its Annual Session board meeting and implemented at the beginning of the College's fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

While this year's environmental assessment identified many important issues in the practice environment, the challenges and opportunities that managed care is presenting to both physicians and patients dominated the College's strategic planning. The Board of Regents approved the following four major strategic themes:

Research. ACP's emphasis on research reflects a continuing commitment to obtaining the necessary data to make informed strategic decisions. Using the ACP Research Center, the College can collect data through surveys, focus groups and literature reviews. This process yields information from a broad range of individuals with experience in all aspects of medicine.

Education and information. By focusing on education and information, two traditional strengths of the College, ACP is reaffirming its commitment to serve as the premier education and information resource for internists. Increasingly, this includes a strong emphasis on quality, the full use and development of information technology and educating members and the public.

Advocacy. ACP's decision to focus on advocacy builds on the traditional strength of College policy. ACP is committed to increasing its influence in the legislative and regulatory environments, as well increasing its role as a representative of internists and their patients. In part, the College plans to achieve these goals by collaborating with other organizations with a similar mission.

Perhaps a subtheme of ACP's focus on advocacy sums up our mission best: "... to develop, maintain, and uphold standards of medical practice and professionalism in the rapidly evolving managed care environment." Also, there is an emphasis on increasing public awareness of the value of internal medicine as a specialty for the benefit of our members and our patients.

Resources. The College continues to remain committed to sound business practices that emphasize prudent management, prudent use of the College's reserve funds and finding additional external funding for College programs, products and services. This includes the development of an ACP Foundation.

Now that the strategic themes for the next fiscal year have been approved, the College is poised to implement those themes through its operational plans and budget. At various spring meetings, the College's major committees will refine their priorities for the College's operational plans and budget for fiscal year 1998-1999.

We will continue to refine the our strategic planning process over the next year so that the College, which is an institution well-grounded in values, can more efficiently respond to the complex challenges and opportunities that face the practice of internal medicine. If successful, this process can and will enhance the care of our patients and the practice of medicine.

Dr. Tooker is ACP's Deputy Executive Vice President.

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