“A physician shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes in those requirements which are contrary to the best interests of the patient. A physician shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.” –excerpt from The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics
A provider’s care is not limited to the immediate needs of his or her patients. Many providers have deep concerns for patients’ overall well being, as well as their ability to maneuver through the healthcare system and social environment in which they function. Tantamount to this is an individual’s ability to achieve affordable, excellent care and physician advocacy has significant impacts on multiple levels of patient care.
Direct advocacy by providers eases patient burdens.
On the patient-provider level, when a physician steps into the role of advocating for his patient’s needs, things happen. Patients have an easier time getting appointments with specialists or getting insurance coverage approval when a provider is willing to speak to those specialists or insurers themselves.
Providers can positively impact direct patient care, and even the patient’s day to day routine, when forging connections with those along the care chain: school nurses, community organizations, non-profits and family caretakers.
Strategizing legislation can help on a local, state and even federal scale.
The word “advocacy” is most often connected with the political arena, but providers should not underestimate their role in the creation of strategy and legislation that has a broader impact on healthcare across large populations.
Increased funding for research, tighter opioid-restriction laws, and mental healthcare initiatives are all areas in which providers have led the charge, demonstrating advocacy measures at the state and federal level to bring about change.
A single voice may not be enough to create a wave or needed disruption, but the combined voices and ideas of a dedicated group can foster that change and help bring the right ideas into realized action plan.
Honing advocacy skills begins at home
For some providers, becoming an advocate may start with simple ideas sharing. For others, it may be finding the right outlet for communication. Sharing ideas openly and taking steps to bring those ideas to fruition will quickly unearth others who align with your goals—and some who don’t! Practice your diplomacy and debate skills to reach ‘the many’.
There are so many opportunities to share and collaborate at the local level:
- Are you part of a larger medical group or physicians association? Offer to write a piece in the newsletter or make a presentation to the board or partners about a topic you feel strongly about. Explain why this topic or idea affects the group, and outline your recommended steps to a resolution so you aren’t seen as standing on a soapbox.
- Do you feel strongly about an issue that affects a particular population or sub-set of your community? Get community support through connections with affected members and create a local movement. If you would like to impact regulations affecting the local autism population, speak at a monthly meeting and get families involved in contacting their local city or county representatives.
- Write a web blog or connect with a regional newspaper and become their local expert on the topic. The exposure will aid in your efforts to enact change.
Find like-minded organizations.
Taking your advocacy efforts to the next level may require association with an organization that aligns with your ideals. You can blaze the trail yourself (indeed, many have); but having connections with like-minded providers in an organization that has the leverage and resources to reach out on the national level may provide the momentum you need. Networking in this way has the added benefit of inspiring collaboration to fine-tune your ideas.
There are several organizations that dedicate resources toward advocacy, many of which focus on specific agendas such as the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative. Research the particular diagnosis or area you are interested in to find any number of opportunities.
Most larger medical associations, including The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Physicians, have advocacy arms providing opportunities for involvement. And if you need some additional resources, be sure to check out the National Physicians Alliance, Physicians Working Together, Partnership to Empower Physician-Led Care, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.