Advocacy and the Trustee's Role

By Penny Brooke

Last spring we saw the passage of legislation to reshape our health care delivery system. But while it appears to be ushering in sweeping change, health care has been moving for some time toward a more integrated future and away from the old fee-for-service model. Hospitals' emphasis shifted from volume to value and quantity to quality years ago. For the most part, such reform elements as accountable care organizations, bundled payments and value-based purchasing will support these changes.

But change won't be easy. The legislation will be implemented over many years, and much has been left to federal agencies to determine through regulation. At the same time, our nation is facing a mounting deficit and pressure to cut government spending, particularly on large federal programs like Medicare.

As Congress reconvenes, it is more important than ever for hospital leaders to build and nurture relationships with their legislators. Their efforts help create favorable changes by informing legislators and influencing public opinion. They also strengthen a hospital's role as a valuable community partner, demonstrating commitment to serve on multiple fronts.

There are many ways to make your voice and that of your community heard. The basis of successful advocacy is building relationships with your legislators and sharing your hospital's story. As a trustee, you are in the best position to help legislators understand all that your hospital does for the community, and the challenges you face as you strive to deliver those services in this new environment.

Successful advocacy translates the needs of your hospital and community into messages policymakers can understand and on which they can act. And no one is better suited to this role than trustees, who intimately understand the challenges facing their communities. However, it's important to work with your hospital administrators to coordinate any contact with legislators to make sure you're speaking off the same page and not working at cross-purposes.

For more information on the most pressing issues or to become involved, visit www.aha.org.

Penny Brooke (Penny.Brooke@nurs.utah.edu), is COG chair and a trustee of Intermountain Health Care Central Urban Region in Salt Lake City.