It was early March, and our second day of advocacy on Capitol Hill with the Digestive Health Physicians Association (DHPA) was cut short when congressional offices were shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sitting with several of my GI physician colleagues from across the country, we knew that our practices, our patients, and our communities would be impacted by the coronavirus. None of us could have known the extent.
We also didn’t know in that moment that our advocacy work through DHPA would be one of the most important factors in ensuring that our practices were prepared to weather the pandemic. Our membership, legal counsel, and legislative lobbyists helped us remain informed about new legislation and regulations and ensured that we had much-needed access to government resources.
Just a few months into what is now the COVID-19 pandemic, independent GI practice leaders have learned a lot about how to strengthen our practices to respond to future crises – and what early-career GIs should look for in the practices they are considering.
First and foremost, practice leadership is key. One thing most successful GI practices have in common is that they hire really smart executives and administrative teams who excel at taking care of the business side of things so that physicians like me can do what we do best: treat patients.
Stay informed about state and federal policies
As a member of DHPA, Capital Digestive Care was well positioned to keep up to date on the government response to the coronavirus and the support it provided to small businesses and to health care providers.
Over the past 5 years, DHPA physician leaders have established strong relationships with our elected federal leaders. During our Capitol Hill visits in early March, we discussed the coronavirus in addition to our policy priorities.
The relationships we’ve built with policymakers have helped us educate them about how private practices were being affected and make the case that it was crucial to include private practices in health care stimulus packages.
Without this federal financial support, many medical groups may have had to close their doors – leaving a large gap in care once the pandemic subsides.
In addition to the federal government’s financial support, our policy advocacy efforts kept us informed about federal health agencies’ decisions on telehealth coverage. We were able to educate our physicians and staff about state and federal adjustments to telehealth rules for the pandemic, on the guidelines for elective procedures, on employee furlough and leave rules, as well as other congressional and state actions that would impact our practice.
You can’t be an independent physician without being open to learning about the business of health care and understanding how health policies affect your ability to practice medicine and care for people in your community. Every early-career physician who is looking to join a practice should ask how its leadership remains informed about health policy at the state and federal levels.