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New Officers

New ACP leaders to focus on postmerger unity, E/M guidelines

From the May 1998 ACP Observer, copyright © 1998 by the American College of Physicians.

ACP's new elected officials, who took office during Annual Session's business meeting on April 4, say that providing leadership and guidance as part of the merger with the American Society of Internal Medicine (ASIM) will be a major focus of their terms. Here are some of their goals for the upcoming year.

President: Dr. Sox

Harold C. Sox, FACP, said that internal medicine faces an ongoing challenge of explaining itself so that prospective patients know what internists can do for them. "We have to help the public understand the distinct attributes of the internist so that people can make a fully informed choice when looking for a personal physician," he said.

Dr. Sox also said that the ACP-ASIM merger should help to meet the challenge of creating unity within internal medicine. "Subspecialist internists and general internists are part of one discipline, and they ought to be looking after each other," he said.

Dr. Sox also sees the following issues as high on his agenda:

  • Draw the National Association on Inpatient Physicians into the leadership of internal medicine "so that they always think of themselves as internists first."
  • Address HCFA's new evaluation and management (E/M) guidelines. "We must get HCFA to define precisely what coding errors really constitute fraud," Dr. Sox said. "We must also devise a coding system that does not detract from patient care."
  • Maintain efforts to achieve nationwide access to health care. Dr. Sox said that although the country is enjoying unprecedented prosperity, the number of Americans who have health insurance has gone down slightly. "We have to make sure that we're not becoming prosperous at the expense of providing adequate insurance for employees and for people who are close to the poverty line," he said.

Chair, Board of Regents: Dr. Copeland

Robert B. Copeland, MACP, said the merger will also be a key issue for the Board of Regents. "We have to make the merger with the ASIM constructive so that we have a new organization that is more than the sum of the two previous individual organizations," he said.

Dr. Copeland also expects the Board to confront some of the major issues in health care that are challenging the way physicians practice such as excesses in managed care, ethical issues, professionalism and the new E/M guidelines. He said the guidelines provide an opportunity to draw physicians together to find a practical way to document patient care.

"There probably hasn't been a major issue in recent years that has been as much of a threat to both practicing physicians and teaching physicians," he said. "We're all in this together."

Dr. Copeland also plans to work with College leadership on a proposal in which the College would periodically identify and promote awareness of a clinical theme such as the management of obesity, the office use of antibiotics or the changing treatment of congestive heart failure. "If the College puts its whole weight behind a theme for a period of time, the potential for quality improvement is quite remarkable," he said. "Rather than reacting to market pressures, I would like to see us doing the right thing for patient care. The clinical themes could give the College an opportunity to really impact quality of patient care."

Chair, Board of Governors: Dr. Kochar

Mahendr S. Kochar, FACP, said the Board of Governors will play a central role in the ACP-ASIM merger as the states merge ACP chapters and ASIM component societies, and as the Governors are called on to assist in the transition. "I want to make sure that the mergers at the state level go smoothly and the emerging structure is maximally functional in each state," Dr. Kochar said.

Dr. Kochar said he will focus on assimilating the 20 transitional Governors into the Board of Governors structure, making them feel comfortable and productive as their terms begin.

In addition, he said he will encourage Governors to share their thoughts and ideas based on what they have learned from their members, whether it be about the merger or other issues. He expects the Governors to keep the membership informed on the College's initiatives. "The Governors are a very important link between the College and its membership," Dr. Kochar said.

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