Connecting With Legislators

Interested in hosting a visit from your member of Congress? One Hawaii practice tells its story.

Site visit main

In this era of health care reform, radiologists must demonstrate value to a variety of audiences. To communicate with patients, it might mean seeking out face-to-face interaction and clarifying the role of the specialty. With other physicians, it could mean discussing critical results and joining hospital committees. But what about policy-makers?

How can radiologists guarantee that members of Congress understand radiology’s significant contributions in delivering quality care?

One way to accomplish this goal is by inviting members of Congress to visit your practice or hospital through the ACR’s site visitation program. In October 2014, Elizabeth Ann Ignacio, MD, radiologist at Maui Diagnostic Imaging in Kahului, Hawaii, participated in a tour and discussion with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). How can your practice — and the entire specialty — benefit from personal visits with legislators?

Scheduling the Details

In April 2014, Maui Diagnostic Imaging extended invitations to its U.S. representatives and senators to visit the radiology practice, receive a tour, and discuss health- and policy-related issues. In part because Hawaii is such a small state, Ignacio and her colleague Andrew V. Kayes, MD, had already met with their members of Congress in Washington, D.C., as part of the ACR annual meeting. “We wanted to build on that relationship,” she says. “There’s always lots of health and medical issues we face statewide, and members of Congress just want any physician’s input. We wanted to start a dialogue.”

Plus, Ignacio believed this to be a real opportunity to explain radiologists’ roles and significance to patient care. “The legislators I’ve met are all well-meaning, but they don’t know a lot about what we do. Often, they think they’re talking to a bunch of technologists or that it is oncologists and surgeons who read scans, not us.”

“It meant a lot to Rep. Gabbard  to meet with administrators, who are on the front line and see how hard it is to get approval for studies.”   
—Elizabeth Ann Ignacio, MD

Site Visit Rundown

After receiving some tips for the visit from the ACR’s government relations staff, Ignacio and colleagues received word that Rep. Gabbard would be able to visit the practice in late October 2014. They scheduled a short tour of facilities and then opened up the meeting to discuss relevant topics in radiology, including breast cancer and CT lung cancer screening guidelines. Because the  visit occurred in October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Ignacio says they made sure to show Rep. Gabbard the mammography equipment. “She’s in her thirties and had never had a mammogram,” says Ignacio, “but even young women should know about mammography because they have moms and sisters and aunts, and you want to reach these people.”

Ignacio says another key portion of the visit was having staff present to ask questions and bring up important issues. “Two of our administrators brought up really good local issues for radiology, such as the difficulty in getting studies done for veterans. It meant a lot to Rep. Gabbard to meet with administrators, who are on the front line and see how hard it is to get approval for studies,” Ignacio explains. “It’s heartbreaking: these patients are very sick and they have to wait a long, long time to get the care they need.”

Positive Outcomes

On the whole, the visit was fruitful, according to Ignacio, who was especially surprised by the personal experiences relayed by Rep. Gabbard and her staff members. “They shared some of their personal medical experiences involving radiology, and I was excited to hear them discuss these experiences in a positive way,” says Ignacio.

Ignacio adds that this experience created a more intimate bond between Maui Diagnostic Imaging employees and Rep. Gabbard. In fact, the practice has already followed up with her on several issues they discussed, including services for veterans. “We’ve spoken to Rep. Gabbard and her staff once or twice just to say hello,” says Ignacio. “And to say we’re available if they ever have questions or need support.”

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Top: According to Elizabeth Ann Ignacio, MD (left), and Andrew V. Kayes, MD (middle), one highlight of the site visit with Rep. Gabbard (right) was showing her the practice’s high-quality technology. Above: Ignacio (left) demonstrates mobile technology for Rep. Gabbard (right).

Tips from the College

Over the past seven years, the ACR has organized more than 150 successful visits with members of Congress. Below, Ted Burnes, ACR’s director of political education, provides some tips for setting up and preparing for a visit.

Q: What is the first step for ACR members interested in setting up a site visit with their legislators?  

A: The first step is contacting me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) at the ACR’s Government Relations Department. Doing so allows us to make sure a similar visit with the same member of Congress hasn’t already happened recently with another practice in the same Congressional district. Additionally, through our political relationships with members of Congress and their staff, we are able to more easily schedule the visit.

Q: How does the ACR help support the practice or department and prepare them for the site visit?  

A: We provide talking points for the visit based on our latest legislative activities. It’s important to walk the member of Congress and their staff through the process for a patient receiving imaging, what a typical day is like in a radiology practice, and how expensive it is to run a practice (especially accommodating large equipment and upgrading it). We also recommend doing a “show and tell” session to introduce the technology we use. Members of Congress may have as many as five to seven other appointments on the same day as their visit with the radiology practice, so they might not remember everything discussed. But they will definitely remember what they see because the technology associated with radiology is so impressive.

Q: How can practices continue the relationship after the visit?  

A: Offer to serve as a resource for the member of Congress and their staff. Health care is a complicated, ever-changing industry. Less than 10 percent of members of Congress have a professional background in health care before being elected, so offering to help them on all things related to health care is a great foot in the door to building a relationship.


By Alyssa Martino, freelance writer for the ACR Bulletin

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