America’s healthcare system – everything from primary care budget to how quality is measured – is driven by policy. Large healthcare systems and insurers dedicate significant resources to lobbying on Capitol Hill; however, often it is the voice of frontline clinicians that sways a legislator’s vote.
There are several ways busy primary care physicians and staff can advocate for policy issues that directly impact the care they deliver. Whether you’re participating in Aledade’s annual Hill Day, writing a letter to your local representative or hosting a legislator visit at your clinic, here are 4 tips to keep your advocacy efforts focused, memorable and effective.
- Prep your elevator pitch: Most advocates find it helpful to prepare an elevator pitch, a concise and compelling summary of their key message, to serve as the centerpiece of their advocacy efforts. Remember, your main purpose is to share the challenges and successes you face in primary care, and how policy could affect that.
Introduce yourself: share why you chose to practice independent primary care or join a community health center. Then, explain the driving force behind your visit and which issues you want to discuss. Detail the positive impact or unintended consequences of the legislation at hand, such as staffing challenges or reduced workload. Then, don’t forget the crucial policy ask – what specific legislative change or support you need to deliver better care to your patients and the legislator’s constituents.
- Do your research: It can seem daunting to delve into a policy issue, but remember your role is to share your expertise in patient care not legislation. Limit your discussion to just a couple of critical issues, concentrating on bills currently being heard and voted on. Make sure you have the bill’s name/number, the sponsoring legislator, and some bullet points about its significance. Reach out to Aledade’s Policy Team for help with your prep work.
- Establish rapport: Understand that legislators are swamped with information. Express gratitude for their past support, even if you have ideological differences, and take a moment to develop a personal rapport before getting down to business.
One physician advocate recommends taking the same approach you do with patients. “Most of us will frequently look at the chart ahead of time, remind ourselves a bit about this patient, what they like, what they don’t like, how to bond with them and start off the visit,” said Aledade ACO member Dr. Mark McNeill. “It’s the same thing with any legislator: try to know something about their successes, what they value … Whatever you can do to get the conversation started off on a positive note.”
- Recognize your value: Have confidence in your voice as a primary care expert. Legislators may not fully grasp the intricacies of your field, so don’t be intimidated. You’re there to educate and advocate. Remember, the goal isn’t always an immediate touchdown; it’s an ongoing conversation that began before you arrived and will continue after you leave, but your showing up matters.
“When you’re meeting with these legislators [you’re offering] the one thing that they can’t get from lobbyists, their staff, or the information provided to them in their packets,” said Aledade ACO member Dr. Eric Hansen. “That perspective of how [legislation] is going to affect a practicing physician is something they can’t get from anyone other than us.”
Ready to flex your advocacy muscles?
Aledade hosts advocacy-focused virtual summits, letter writing campaigns and opportunities to meet with legislators throughout the year. If you have an issue you care about and would like to learn more about upcoming advocacy opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org.