Cardiology Magazine — November - December 2012
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Cover Story
John Gordon Harold

What’s in a Name?

The True Value of ACC Membership

“On a snowy Monday afternoon in Manhattan in 1949, 14 cardiovascular pioneers met in Franz Groedel’s office to form a revolutionary new society” … and so the story of the ACC begins.

Nearly 65 years ago, the College’s founders envisioned an organization dedicated to providing its members with education and other services to improve the quality of cardiovascular care. From the outset, membership in the College was open to “professional men and women actively engaged in practice or research relating to diseases of the heart and circulation.” Today, this remarkable vision has resulted in the world’s leading professional cardiovascular society, serving 40,000 physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists and practice managers.

This rich history, coupled with the College’s continuous leadership in the areas of education and lifelong learning, evidence-based science, globally recognized quality initiatives, and health policy efforts locally, nationally and globally, are part and parcel of why membership continues to grow and why the FACC, and more recently AACC, designations are valued and recognized world-wide.

Education

Education has been a core member benefit since that snowy day long ago. Providing cardiovascular professionals with the means and opportunities to continually refine their clinical performance and stay on top of the latest research and treatments in the field is of the utmost priority. From live programs like the Annual Scientific Session to products like the highly popular self-assessment programs (SAPs) and family of JACC Journals, the College can take credit for ensuring generations of cardiologists and members of the cardiac care team are providing the best care to patients.

This year, the College is expanding its educational palette with the new Lifelong Learning Portfolio (LLP), a first version of which is currently on CardioSource.org. The goal of the LLP is to leverage the rapidly growing digital technology landscape and provide a greater number of opportunities for individuals to evaluate and improve the quality of care provided to patients irrespective of practice setting and/or career path. Through the LLP, the ACC aspires to become the primary source for maintaining and documenting the highest level of physician competence in Terms of patient care.

Quality

ACC’s quality programs, suite of registries and clinical documents are also tangible member benefits. The College published its first clinical practice guidelines with the American Heart Association in 1984 and hasn’t stopped since. These evidence-based guidelines are intended to assist clinicians in clinical decision making by describing a range of generally acceptable approaches for the diagnosis, management or prevention of specific diseases or conditions. They attempt to define practices that meet the needs of most patients in most circumstances by categorizing the recommendations into a classification system. In addition to guidelines, the College has added expert consensus documents, performance measures, data standards and appropriate use criteria (AUC) to its toolbox over the years – all with the goal of ensuring patients are getting the most appropriate care at the right time and achieving the “Triple Aim” of improved population health, enhanced experience of care and reduced per capita cost.

Quality initiatives like the Door-to-Balloon Alliance, Hospital to Home and Imaging in FOCUS have offered members opportunities to actually put guidelines and AUC Into practice. These programs provide unique opportunities for cardiovascular professionals to come together and share best practices, take advantage of online performance improvement tools, and more, with the ultimate goal of reducing D2B times, unwarranted heart failurerelated hospital readmissions and/or unnecessary imaging procedures. New initiatives like the CardioMetabolic Health Alliance (see page 17) and another effort focused on improving adherence to anticoagulation guidelines are in the works, as are an increasing number of online clinical toolkits around disease states like heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

Of course, the NCDR® is another important resource. Since its launch in 1997, the NCDR has grown to encompass six hospital-based registries and one practice-based registry. Today, these registries provide evidence-based quality improvement solutions for cardiologists and other medical professionals who are committed to measurement, improvement, and excellence in cardiovascular care. The NCDR is playing an increasingly crucial role in not only helping hospitals and practices answer important questions about the care they deliver, but serving as an important tool to help with tracking and meeting the increasing number of accreditation and public reporting requirements required by government and payers.

Advocacy

Less tangible, but no less important, is the work that College does on members’ behalf when it comes to health policies developed by national and state lawmakers, federal regulatory agencies, and private payers. The College, by virtue of its long history of leadership in education, science and quality, has garnered the respect of Congress, health plans and agencies like the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the voice of cardiology. More recently, the College is also viewed by international agencies as a key stakeholder in global cardiovascular health issues.

As a result of these efforts, the College was at the table during key health care reform discussions; has been invited to key FDA committee hearings on new devices and drugs; and successfully worked with CMS and private payers to reverse or mitigate harmful coding or billing policies. Most recently, the ACC was at the White House for a discussion among stakeholders about payment reform models, while ACC efforts also played an important role in the World Health Organization’s recent decision to adopt a set of nine health targets designed to combat non-communicable diseases worldwide (see story on page 31) . While we can’t win them all — particularly in this time of rapid and major change in the health care delivery arena — the College continues to be a steadfast advocate for its members’ interests and the interests of cardiovascular patients around the world.

Membership

Last, but certainly not least, ACC membership creates opportunities for professionals all over the globe to connect with one another and to collaborate and exchange knowledge and resources. Over the past few years, the College has initiated the structure of councils and sections to bring about clinical or specialty focus areas that represented member interest areas. This started with Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology and Women in Cardiology and has grown over the past seven years to encompass 12 councils and their respective member sections:

1. Council on Academic Cardiology and Section
2. Adult Congenital and Pediatric Cardiology Council and Section
3. Council on Cardiovascular Care for Older Adults and Section
4. Cardiovascular Team Council and Section
5. Cardiovascular Imaging Council and Section
6. Council on Clinical Practice
7. Early Career Professionals Council and Section
8. Heart Failure and Transplant Council
9. Interventional Scientific Council and Section
10. Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council and Section
11. Surgeons’ Scientific Council
12. Women in Cardiology Council and Section

Each of these groups has influenced the broader cardiovascular agenda by bringing their particular expertise and accumulated wisdom to bear on issues of concern to all of us in the field.

Community

Networking and community-building has increasingly become easier with the prevalence of new digital and mobile technologies. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow us to more quickly disseminate breaking news, share case studies, and network with colleagues. The ACC in Touch Blog has also become a place for ACC leaders to talk about College endeavors, debate hot topics or provide perspectives on new research and/or trends. While our mobile app efforts are still growing, the ACC Connect App for iPads, iPhones, and Androids, provides a searchable member and ACC staff directory, ability to update individual Contact information, news feeds from the ACC, and access to ACC important phone numbers. The CardioSmart Explorer App, which is also free to members, is intended to be a point-of-care tool to help educate patients about the heart and their specific condition(s). As the College’s overarching digital strategy is implemented in the coming year, the mobile and digital tools for members will only increase!

We honor the visionary leaders who founded the College in 1949. The twelfthcentury philosopher Bernard of Chartres said “that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness on sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.” We’ve come a long way since 1949 and I am confident that ACC’s founders would be proud of what we have become and where we are going. Engagement with the ACC is an incredible place to start changing the landscape of cardiovascular care. Membership in the ACC is more than four letters after you name, it’s both the foundation and the future of our profession.

Harold is president-elect of the ACC.
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