By Caroline Smith, Sr. Specialist, Policy
Independent primary care physicians are pillars of care in their communities, wearing multiple hats as small business owners and clinicians. Unfortunately, the voices of independent physicians too often go unheard. As a result, primary care practice sustainability and ultimately patient health outcomes are compromised. Part of the problem is that many physicians do not have the time, platform, or resources to advocate and educate their local and national representatives, the public, or even other similarly tasked physician advocacy groups on critical issues they encounter in their practice. This leaves important decisions impacting our health and health care systems to politicians, instead of the physicians who are on the front lines of care.
The State Policy Program at Aledade aims to identify, address, and rectify this issue by creating an environment where physicians and practice leadership can be actively engaged, consulted, and included in decision-making conversations that will impact their practices and the health of the patients they serve. Through increased education, awareness, and access to advocacy opportunities via physician-led policy committees, our partner practices have the chance to shape the future of primary care.
Advocating for State-Level Needs
Aledade has a proven track record of success in advocating for the sustainability of independent primary care. While we continue to serve the needs of our physicians advocating at the federal level, we also understand that health care is intrinsically local; there are deeper and more complex needs at the state and local level that require attention. Aledade’s State Policy Program is uniquely positioned to address these distinct state-level needs by enlisting the support of dedicated staff and resources that will build and bolster physician-led advocacy activities, deepen stakeholder alignment throughout the state, and serve as a convener between physicians, associations, and legislators.
The State Policy program is currently operating in Arkansas, Michigan, California, North Carolina, Colorado, and Mississippi, with plans to expand and develop these efforts in additional states. Fueled by the passion and dedication of physician-led policy committees, Aledade’s state policy efforts have provided independent physicians a seat at the table and influence on key issues: Michigan has served as the vanguard for Aledade’s advocacy efforts relating to workforce shortages; and in North Carolina and California, physician’s priorities include primary care and workforce investments, Medicaid policy, and shaping the future of value-based care in the state.
In Arkansas, Aledade ACO member physicians have had meaningful and productive conversations with local legislators and were prioritized for vaccine distribution during the height of the pandemic. They’ve also had the opportunity to sit down with a US senator, John Boozman (R-AR), to discuss their concerns.
“A lot of these health care decisions are made on a federal level that involves health care personnel, but really when you talk about independent primary care, we don’t have a big voice at the table,” said Dr. Philip Pounders, an Aledade ACO member practicing in Little Rock, Arkansas. “To have a sitting senator meet with us and know what we do, how we do it, what we need, and what our thoughts are, that’s a big deal for us. Never had it happen in our clinic.”
In May 2022, Senator Boozman introduced a bill, the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act, to help address the nationwide physician shortage and encourage more medical school graduates to practice in rural areas – a topic discussed at length during Aledade’s meeting with the congressman.
The Voice of the Community
Effective advocacy is the marriage of deep knowledge, robust data, and personal stories; our physicians are key sources for the needs and realities of our health care system as it relates to primary care, bolstered with Aledade data and state policy know-how. Primary care physicians are often a patient’s go-to for all health-related needs, and communities, especially rural communities, see them as trusted advisors. Aledade frequently advocates to strengthen these relationships,1 as data shows that increased access to and utilization of primary care services results in improved health outcomes while saving long-term costs from reduced hospitalization and emergency room use, as well as improved management of chronic conditions.2
These policy committees, led by physicians and facilitated by Aledade staff, provide the platform to empower and elevate the voices of independent and community-based primary care practitioners so they are able to share their stories and experiences, as well as data on patient outcomes and cost savings to show the value of a health care system that centers around preventive and value-driven care.
“The amount of legislation that goes on without any sort of input from primary care is astounding. Keeping up to date on not only current bills and legislation, but also who is sponsoring, what is the landscape, who do we need to contact to get our voice heard, that’s been huge for us because a lot of these decisions are made while we’re busy taking care of patients,” Dr. Pounders said. “We thoroughly enjoy that we have a policy committee. I try to tune in whenever I can.”
To learn more about Aledade's State Policy Program, email us at [email protected].