Hosting an Emergency Department Visit for your Member of Congress

 Rep Suzan DelBene 
Photograph from L to R

  • Kevin Hanson, MD, Medical Director Emergency Department, EvergreenHealth
  • U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01)
  • Bob Malte, CEO, EvergreenHealth
  • Liam Yore, MD, Providence Everett

On January, 18, 2013, U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) visited with EvergreenHealth leaders in Kirkland, WA to learn more about emergency care services and the challenges of a large healthcare provider in her district.

Newly elected and veteran Members of Congress alike rely heavily upon input from their constituents. Whether your Member is a freshman representative or a seasoned senator with years of legislative experience, he or she wants to hear what you, as a constituent and a physician, have to say about issues of importance to the community.

Legislators are looking for information about our health care system -- where it works and where it doesn't work. As the front-line of our nation's health care delivery system, emergency physicians are well-positioned to educate legislators on a wide-range of issues including patient access, public health concerns, rural and inner-city health issues, and quality of care.

Now is the perfect time to host an emergency department visit for your Member of Congress. Dozens of ACEP members have already hosted visits with tremendous success. As part of ACEP's long-range advocacy efforts, we would like to have as many legislators as possible spend time with an emergency physician, seeing first-hand the inner workings of a hospital emergency department and those patients seeking care in this setting.

ACEP Materials When Visiting your Member of Congress

Are you meeting with your Member of Congress?  Use the materials listed below to help familiarize the Member with ACEP and our issues.

 ACEP Letter to Congressional Leaders regarding the SGR
 ACEP Letter to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick
 General Emergency Department Information and Fast Facts
 Emergency Department Talking Points
 ACEP's Legislative Priorities for the 112th Congress 
 Emergency and Trauma Care Issue Brief for the 112th Congress 
ACEP Letter to House Energy & Commerce Committee on Repealing IPAB
ACEP Letter to the President on Debt Limit Negotiations

Before you begin

Hosting an emergency department visit for your Member of Congress can help you accomplish several objectives in establishing a personal constituent relationship with your lawmaker. Before setting one up, however, you should consider the following:

  1. Why should the visit be conducted? Determine what the visit should accomplish beforehand and if the timing is appropriate.
  2. What will the visit accomplish for your and/or ACEP's legislative agenda? The meeting should provide a concrete opportunity to explain how an issue affects the delivery of emergency medicine, or should build rapport with the legislator.
  3. How will the legislator benefit from the visit? In addition to meeting constituents, the visit should provide the legislator with useful information and establish you and your staff as a future resource.
  4. Will you benefit from the visit? Be sure that the visit is a good opportunity for you personally to establish and build a constituent relationship with your Member of Congress.
  5. Are there options other than a visit that could help you achieve your objectives? Planning and conducting a tour is time consuming. At times, a thoughtful, persuasive letter or a visit to the legislator's office may be more appropriate.

Scheduling the visit

  1. Contact the district or Washington office of your Member of Congress. You can obtain the district number from your local directory and the Washington office number by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121. Ask to be connected to the legislator's office.
  2. Ask to speak with the scheduler at either office. Identify yourself as a constituent and emergency physician. Also mention where you practice.
  3. Extend the invitation to the Member of Congress and any staff members who may be interested. Provide several dates when you would be available to host the visit. A good time to schedule the visit is during a Congressional recess or district work period.
  4. Follow-up the phone call with a written invitation confirming the date and time if one has been set. Don't be discouraged if it takes several invitations before he or she accepts.
  5. You may want to include a confidentiality agreement with your letter which should be signed in advance by all parties planning to participate in the visit. Because of concerns with liability, confidentiality issues are important to the hospital, physicians and patients.
  6. Inform the hospital administration and the hospital's public relations department of the visit. Be prepared to discuss the advantages for the hospital as well as for yourself, your patients and the community. You may also want to inform hospital security of the visit.

Preparing for the visit

  1. Do you homework. If this is your first meeting with the legislator, it's a good idea to learn more about his/her key issues, voting patterns, committee assignments and election campaign. The ACEP Washington office can provide you with biographical and legislative information about your Member of Congress when you need it.
  2. Concentrate your discussions on three key points or less. The ACEP Washington office can provide you with issue papers and talking points on key concerns of emergency medicine in the legislative and regulatory ares.
  3. Determine before the visit whether the legislator will be informing the local media of the visit or inviting them to cover the event. You may want to have a photographer on hand where appropriate. Photographs as well as news releases can provide information for local papers and for your state ACEP chapter's newsletter.
  4. Inform the other members of the emergency department staff of the visit and its purpose. Be prepared to provide them with background information on the legislator and issues that could be discussed.
  5. Develop a schedule that allows enough time to tour the facility and to enjoy informal discussions.
  6. Prepare or provide a fact sheet for the legislator with relevant local statistics such as the number of patient visits, number of staff, reasons for visits, etc.
  7. If the legislator's schedule permits, plan an informal luncheon or reception following the visit. If not, follow the visit with a short private discussion in a quiet office or lounge area.

The visit

  1. Provide the Member of Congress and his staff with lab coats and identifying name tags if possible.
  2. Brief the Member on the role of the emergency department in the community. Walk through the reasons why a patient would present at an emergency department (unavailability of primary care physician, uninsured, out-of-town care, accidents, etc.)
  3. Include the following activities if appropriate: tour of the facilities, introductions and discussions with staff, discussions with patients or their family members, patient screening/encounters,
  4. Keep the visit focused while encouraging questions and open discussion. Keep close track of time.
  5. Try to leave one or two clear messages or impressions with the Member of Congress.
  6. Provide the legislator with materials, if requested, which support and explain ACEP's positions on health legislation pending in Congress.

After the visit

  1. Follow-up is critical. Send a thank-you letter detailing the highlights of the visit.
  2. Send any photographs taken during the visit, and copies of any newspaper articles highlighting the visit to the facility.
  3. Inform the ACEP Washington office and your state chapter office of the results of your visit by completing and returning the ACEP Congressional Visit Report. Advise the Washington office of any follow-up which is necessary in Washington.
  4. Keep in regular contact with your Member of Congress. Write letters on issues of concern, attend town hall meetings, and schedule future visits to encourage further communication and to establish yourself as a resource for the legislator.
  5. Express interest in the legislator's political and legislative activities. Ask to receive the legislator's newsletter. Send a note of thanks when the lawmaker pleases you with a vote on an issue.
  6. Inform your Member of Congress of your activities and continuing problems. Don't hesitate to state your position on upcoming legislation.   

For more information on scheduling an emergency department visit or other grassroots activities, contact ACEP's Washington office at (800) 320-0610, ext 3013 or e-mail

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