Gillian Schmitz, MD, FACEP
As I close out my term as ACEP president, I am incredibly proud of our shared accomplishments in a remarkably challenging year. At ACEP21 when I took the gavel, I promised to welcome tough conversations – and we kept that promise. ACEP refused to shy away from issues that affect you, even if they were controversial, even if it was uncomfortable. And I’m proud of that.
Despite all the challenges we’ve faced, we’ve also made progress. I think it’s human nature to want to see big sweeping changes, but often progress is simply taking consistent small steps in the right direction. And when we look back, we’ll see the value of our consistent pursuit of doing the right thing. That’s how I feel about the work started to emphasize employer transparency and employment best practices. Last year, we developed an employer survey and asked the companies who advertise, sponsor or exhibit with ACEP and employ emergency physicians to provide details about their governance and attest to honoring ACEP’s best practices. Our goal was and is to shine a light on emergency physician employers and their decision-making and operating procedures. To create a mechanism for accountability. Because we believe it’s not enough to simply point out problems -- we must highlight solutions, create an environment of accountability and underscore the need for ACEP-supported best practices.
Right before ACEP21, we launched efforts to gather employer profiles. We distributed employer surveys to every company involved in our annual meeting and employs emergency physicians. For those who attended ACEP21 in Boston, you may recall as you walked through the exhibit hall, there were QR codes featured on every employer booth. Those codes linked ACEP members to that employer’s information...or lack thereof.
Throughout the last year, we have reached out to hundreds of employers in our database. We asked them to align with best practices and provide details that could help our members in their career journeys. As President, I was able to meet with group decision makers and emphasize the value of this effort and, in a few cases, we saw changes as a result of our outreach. One group in particular reviewed our survey and ACEP's approved policies and changed their policy as a result. That is success. To date, hundreds of employers have responded to the profiles and information collection is ongoing. We created a searchable employer database for our members, and we are committed to continuing to use our influence to make changes that will protect emergency physicians.
This effort may have started small, as many successful efforts do, but I want to assure you our goals are mighty. And as we push for this transparency, we should remember that this effort got off the ground because of the robust democratic process that is the hallmark of the ACEP Council.
Several resolutions in the last few years have directed the ACEP Board to ensure we are pushing for billing transparency and due process for our members. We’ve had countless conversations around the idea of what makes a good employer and what are bad practices. And like every obstacle, the solution is not always clear cut. We continue to listen and ACEP is doing its best to create tools and resources, like the employer database, that help our members make informed decisions and protect themselves while emphasizing employer accountability.
ACEP will continue to champion the adoption of physician-friendly policies that include due process, billing transparency clauses in contracts, and more. We will continue to ask for meetings with leaders who have the power to change policy and practice. We will continue to fight for your protection.
It is also important to note that this employer database is one of many initiatives that fits with a larger vision for the next three to five years, as outlined in our Strategic Plan – a plan that members built. The plan offers a roadmap to guide ACEP efforts to protect and empower our members across five pillars: advocacy, career fulfillment, member engagement and trust, practice and innovation, and resources and accountability.
Our goal is to set a higher bar for employers. We will not back down in our defense of you.
This year has shown that it is possible to come together to encourage open dialogue and civility. My goal was to rise above finger pointing at problems and work to develop systems and solutions that will empower emergency physicians to have fulfilling careers. Our conversations cannot stop once challenges are identified. A truly constructive effort must focus on solutions and highlight what works well for emergency physicians.
By showing hospitals, staffing groups, universities, and other employers that better performance and smarter policies are possible, we will increase the pressure on each of them to do better. Transparency paves the way for accountability, and we are off to a strong start.