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

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College looks to the horizon and plans for the future

From the April ACP Observer, copyright 2007 by the American College of Physicians.

By David C. Dale

Looking ahead I am very appreciative of the opportunity to serve as ACP President for 2007-2008. I look forward to meeting with many of you at Internal Medicine 2007, at chapter and committee meetings, and wherever we are together.

The College looks ahead also. The ACP uses a careful strategic planning process to survey the horizon and plan carefully for the future. This process also bridges across the year-to-year changes in College leadership. During 2006-2007, this strategic planning process was led by the new Chair of the Board of Regents, Joel Levine, FACP, Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado and former Governor of the Colorado Chapter. For 2007-2008, William Applegate, FACP, Chair-Elect for the Board of Regents and Dean of the School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, will chair the Strategic Planning Committee.

The College looks ahead based on its mission statement: "To enhance the quality and effectiveness of health care by fostering excellence and professionalism in the practice of medicine."

This mission statement is used over and over at every College meeting to keep our focus on why we exist and whom we serve. It is the foundation for everything that we do, including strategic planning.

One of the most important planning decisions made by the leadership of the College in the last few years was deciding to focus on revitalization of internal medicine. It is certainly a vital medical specialty, but interest in internal medicine as a career has declined in recent years, particularly interest in general internal medicine. Many of us feel that there is a lack of appreciation, respect and support for the work that we do and its value to our patients.

Because of these concerns, in January 2007, the Board of Regents approved nine strategic themes proposed by the Strategic Planning Committee. These include:

  • increase interest in and the attractiveness of careers in internal medicine,
  • improve access to health care,
  • increase member adoption of health information technology,
  • prepare members for quality improvement initiatives and pay for performance requirements, and
  • increase awareness of the knowledge of standards of professionalism and ethics in order to affirm the patient/physician relationship and the physician's responsibility to society.

Each committee, council and division of the College regularly reviews how its current activities and future projects fit into these strategic themes and accompanying specific objectives. The chapters, governors, committees and boards then use the strategic plan to organize and catalyze activities into an operating plan and budget for all our activities. Policies and policy papers are an important product from these efforts.

Policies developed around strategic themes by College committees and endorsed by the Board of Regents provide the platform for College recommendations, such as the funding of health care through Medicare, Medicaid and other governmental programs. These policies also can help internists when they talk to administrators of hospitals, health maintenance organizations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical suppliers, and vendors of other goods and services about policies and positions of the College. One of the most satisfying aspects of representing the College is that it has a policy base that represents the interests and diversity of our patients and our members.

Another way internists can "look forward" is to think about where they would like their organizations to be in five to 10 years. At the October 2006 Board of Regents meeting, we broke into small groups to collect ideas and visions of the future. In January 2007, the Board approved the results of these discussions as a "Vision of ACP in 2015."

At the top of this list was improving access to health care. Our goal is for the College to be increasingly recognized for its leadership in the transformation of U.S. health care delivery to a better organized system that provides better access and higher quality of care. We also articulated a vision for how we will use modern health information technology to improve care and to increase the efficiency of practice. We discussed ways to improve continuing medical education and the processes for maintenance of certification for internists. It was a stimulating discussion; I encourage you and your family, friends, office staff and colleagues to have this same discussion and share your ideas with us.

Our planning efforts should make a difference in the upcoming 2008 U.S. elections. Many of us will be listening to various candidates' visions for the future of health care, and I expect many of these candidates will be looking to the College for suggestions. The College is prepared, through its planning process, to engage in those discussions and debates. We have ideas and plans about what we should do now and what we need to do in the future. All members will have opportunities to engage in this process. To be prepared, I urge you to read ACP's Strategic Plan and the policy statements developed by the College. The plan is online.

While you may not personally agree with every idea in every policy report from the College, I hope you will support the policies put forth by the College, knowing that they represent careful study, reflection and deliberation through our consensus building processes. I also encourage you to be engaged through your Chapter and Governor in influencing ACP policies. I hope you see the value of the effort put into planning as a "special benefit" of your membership in ACP.

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