From paralysis to progress

The sustainable growth rate (SGR) is toast. Now the real work begins.

Rather than dwell on the dragged-out process and dysfunction, it’s time to look at what removing this obstacle means to patients, cardiologists and their healthcare systems. The day after the Senate voted to repeal the SGR and replace it with a modest annual increase in Medicare’s physician fee through 2019, two cardiologists who had been spearheading advocacy efforts for their colleagues spoke with Cardiovascular Business. They weren’t spending time on celebrations; instead, they described opportunities ahead.

This was, in essence, the denouement to conversations from more than a year ago, when M. Eugene Sherman, MD, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) Advocacy Steering Committee and Peter Duffy, MD, co-chair for the Advocacy Committee for the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) explained in a magazine article why physicians need to be involved in policy issues. In their advocacy roles, they concentrated on educating legislators and staff, policy makers and regulators about topics that affect the practice of cardiovascular medicine.

They also considered what those on the Hill had to say and updated the ACC and SCAI membership. Part of their job was keeping physicians on task, urging them to avoid complacence about the SGR and to make their views known to their Congress members.

There is only so much time a practicing physician can devote to advocacy initiatives. Now Duffy, director of quality for the Cardiovascular Service Line at FirstHealth of the Carolinas Reid Heart Institute/Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, N.C., and Sherman, a cardiologist with Aurora Denver Cardiology Associates in Colorado, can shift their attention to ways to bring high quality care to cardiology patients in a value-based model. These leaders and other committee members are at the forefront of what likely is a pivotal moment.

Still, eliminating the SGR is not synonymous with progress. Not all cardiologists have the time, interest or personalities to be effective advocates, but every cardiologist has a stake in defining the future of healthcare. Whether it is active, passive, part of a society, independent, or whatever—stay informed. A knowledgeable constituency will help ensure that we pivot toward progress.

Candace Stuart

Editor, Cardiovascular Business