By Dr. Alan G. Thorson
I encourage you to take time to read through this very informative newsletter. Your ASCRS continues working hard to help you provide your patients with a quality of care in colon and rectal diseases that no other specialty can offer. Whether it is tools for education, tools for research, tools for advocacy or tools for innovation and patient resources, your ASCRS is there on your behalf and at your side working to ensure that both the public and policy makers understand the importance of subspecialty care when it comes to quality outcomes, quality of life and cost savings.
In the following pages you will find summaries of some of the most salient current happenings in Washington, DC. Your ASCRS addresses many issues on your behalf, as unprecedented reform continues in our health care delivery system, and works closely with the American College of Surgeons to maximally leverage our input into these discussions. It is through the hard work of our staff and volunteer leadership such as Guy Orangio, MD, that our voices are heard.
Our advocacy efforts include awareness not only of legislative agendas but increasingly the regulatory process as well. It is unnerving to observe that process, as it takes legislative bills as massive as 2,000 or more pages and churns them into literally tens of thousands of pages of new rules and regulations, as that legislation is enacted. For example, the latest update on HIPAA adds another 138 Federal Register pages of rules and regulations to what some would consider an already overburdened piece of legislation.
There are other issues of concern. In its recent Final Rule, CMS proposed making laparoscopic colectomy an outpatient procedure. This would have significant implications for patients. The change would lead to increased co-pays and create havoc with regard to eligibility for skilled nursing services postoperatively by altering eligibility for the three-day admission window. I found particularly disturbing that this proposal apparently did not show up in the proposed rule but only in the Final Rule after the comment period had closed. These are just two examples exemplifying the importance of regulatory as well as legislative awareness and advocacy. Hopefully, this last issue will be favorably resolved shortly, if it has not already been resolved by the time you read this.
You will also find reports on the efforts of other volunteer leaders which directly impact the quality of care we provide. Scott Steele, MD, summarizes the CREST flexible on-line learning system which has reached the final stages of development before its expected release later this year. Pat Roberts, MD, discusses the development of the first test of its kind assessing subspecialty surgical skills, COSATS, (Colorectal Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skill). If final analysis is as expected, this test could provide invaluable assistance in the assessment of technical skills during the Board Certification process.
José Guillem, MD, updates us on the Society and the Research Foundation’s partnering with the NIH to leverage research dollars. The program provides opportunities for ASCRS’s dedicated researchers to maintain their research commitment beyond what they might otherwise be financially constrained from pursuing.
You will also find a summary report from Stephen Sentovich, MD, regarding our upcoming meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, April 27 – May 1. I am pleased to report that we received a record number of submissions for both videos and manuscripts for the Phoenix meeting. Before planning the program, Dr. Senotvich and his committee extensively reviewed data from past meetings as reported through CME evaluations, other assessment tools and attendance figures to provide content essentially designed by the ASCRS membership. This year’s meeting includes a great venue in an incredible environment with exciting social opportunities. I am confident that you will not want to miss it and encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful educational and social event.
I want to emphasize that ASCRS remains open to your comments and concerns. Please let us know of issues that arise in your experience that may impact the practice of our specialty. We are committed to providing ASCRS members with the best specialty society services available.