By Cathy de Verteuil, PT
SVP Account Management, Net Health
I have been a physical therapist for more than 30 years. And while I no longer treat patients, I still care deeply about my profession – and healthcare in general.
In our country, what we in the healthcare community do is regulated by not just our practice acts, which govern safe and ethical care, but also by industry regulation around quality, outcomes and payment.
This regulatory environment makes it so that clinicians, therapists, nurses, physicians and health systems need to know not only the art and science of their professions but the business of healthcare, as well.
Keeping up on this aspect of the healthcare industry can no doubt be challenging. However, I’ve found that knowing and understanding the business and regulatory environment within which we work can be empowering.
As a clinician, it allowed me to maximize the way in which I delivered care. As an operator, it enabled me to maximize the efficiency of how I provided that care. And as a consumer, it helps me navigate things more easily to ensure the care I (and those around me) receive is optimal.
Overcome Regulatory Challenges Through Advocacy
The more you know, however, the more you’re likely to identify challenges within the system that can discourage you professionally.
Our rules are often cumbersome, disproportionate, and even unfair. It can become frustrating. But, rather than allow this frustration trip me up as a professional, I’ve discovered another avenue that’s proactive, empowering and fulfilling: advocacy.
Advocacy enables us as seasoned professionals to make our voices heard – to ensure that those who can impact regulations to which we abide every day have the information needed progressively address our many challenges.
This involves influencing our local, state and national legislators to make changes. It means ensuring our professional associations know what is meaningful to us. And, it includes helping other professionals understand the impact of what we do and why it’s important to quality care.
In recent years, we’ve faced regulatory challenges around the therapy caps, telehealth, access to care in rural areas, direct access to care, the Stark law, anti-kickback regulations, HIPAA … and the list goes on.
How To Be a Rehab Therapy Advocate
So, how easy is it to become an advocate within your rehab therapy profession?
In my experience, it can be as simple as filling out an email template to as complex as traveling to Washington, DC to meet with your representatives in the U.S. Congress.
What matters is making yourself heard as a citizen as well as a rehab therapy professional, letting legislators and those within your industry association know how you feel. It also includes doing your part to help ensure these people have the tools they need to move on your behalf.
Whether you’re new to advocacy or have some experiences (and resources) to build from, here are some strategies for becoming an advocate as a physical, occupational or speech therapist – or any other healthcare profession, for that matter:
Stay informed about the areas that are meaningful to you. I do this by following industry blogs, reading my association journals, and attending meetings.
Speak up in ways that you can.
If you are practicing in a clinic, this may include educating your colleagues or patients about some change that’s happening within the profession, such as rules changes in Medicare.
I do this almost every day when talking to non-healthcare members of my home community about basic choices on Medicare vs. Medicare advantage. My goal is to help people better understand the pros and cons.
Call and email your legislators. This can be done at any time but doing so can also add weight when there’s an important initiative coming to a vote.
I’ve done this countless times at both the state and national levels, and often it’s as easy as using the form letter your association provides – with personal details added, of course. But, you can go straight to your legislators’ websites for information on how to contact them directly.
I should also add that if you call their offices, the conversations can actually be fun. You may even be speaking to your next member of congress!
Visit your legislator’s office. Yes, in an age when we so often opt to communicate via email or text, this can still be done.
I’ve done this at the local, state and national levels. Sometimes you need an appointment, but often you can just show up. As with calling them, you may be surprised at who you end up meeting.
Also, when you do this, take a picture with the representative or staff member, then post it on your social media channels. This expands the reach and encourages others to do the same.
Be a Leader
If direct action isn’t as appealing or feasible, you can also join your association, which exists to advocate on behalf of your profession. You can contribute monetarily or volunteer to support those who are advocating.
Also, associations often provide their members with tools that make it simpler to advocate on behalf of their professions. If there’s a campaign happening, I’ll post about it to all my social media accounts – sometimes using the tools, verbiage and images provided by the association – and ask others to do the same.
Large or small, being an advocate for your profession doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Any action you take adds value to better outcomes with our patients and our businesses.
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