On Saturday, the ACR Board of Directors met to discuss current and future initiatives impacting its 9,500 members. Here is a summary of the meeting:
Increasing Access to High-Quality Education: Innovation in education and global awareness of rheumatology were prominent themes. ACR Beyond, a new streaming platform, debuted at this year’s Annual Meeting.
ACR and EULAR leadership have collaborated on a new definition of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) to be used as a common messaging platform by various stakeholders. A strong, singular definition of these diseases may cut down on confusion when rheumatologists are engaged in advocacy anywhere in the world. A manuscript on RMDs will be jointly released in A&R and Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
New Ways to Drive Revenue: Results of work by the Revenue Task Force were presented. The task force was convened to develop innovative ways to generate revenue for the ACR. Proposed ideas include a concentrated “meeting within a meeting” track focused on clinical content; enhanced recruitment of new members; and more subscription-based educational micro-modules.
Guidelines App: The ACR is researching the development of a new clinical guidelines app to appeal to younger, tech-savvy rheumatologists. The ACR will develop an app with a goal to launch in time for the release of the ACR/National Psoriasis Foundation Guideline for the Management of Psoriatic Arthritis in spring 2018.
ARHP Update: ARHP enjoyed great success in 2017 with its eBytes modules, which are free for ACR/ARHP members.
In 2017, ARHP also approved funding for six awards to embed NPs and PAs in rheumatology practices for mentored training. ARHP also created its own Master designation, a distinguished honor for long-serving members.
Rheumatology Practice: The Board approved the continued development of a rheumatology-specific Alternative Payment Model (APM) that would offer members a more satisfactory way to report for reimbursement through MACRA and would not penalize providers for using costly drugs. APM development will proceed with a goal of a fall 2018 pilot test.
Uncertain Political Landscape: Anthony S. Fauci, MD, who delivered the 2017 Opening Lecture, addressed the Board as a special guest. A new secretary of Health and Human Services will be appointed soon, and will likely “re-imagine” the role of the department, he said. Dr. Fauci has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984.
While the White House proposed a 21 percent decrease in the NIH’s budget, Congress has proposed increases and controls the budget, not the President, said Dr. Fauci. However, increases may be earmarked for particular disease initiatives, such as Alzheimer’s research. The NIH favors early-stage investigators, so funding is key.
“We can’t survive and attract young people into biomedical research with a flat budget. We need our budget to grow a modest amount each year,” he said.
Robert H. Carter, MD, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), echoed the need to prioritize both early-stage investigators and early established investigators to encourage sustained careers in research.
An update on legislation affecting rheumatologists included the uncertainties over a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act by Congress, as well as tax reform. The Board was also informed that the U.S. House of Representatives repealed the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
RISE: 1.2 Million Patient Encounters: The ACR’s patient registry, RISE, continues to expand. As of Oct. 26, RISE includes 6,725,151 total patient encounters, 1,248,865 total patients, and 804 total, fully-connected providers.
From Cortisone to a Cure?: Eric L. Matteson, MD, MPH, outgoing Rheumatology Research Foundation President, closed the meeting. Abby G. Abelson, MD, will become the 2018 Foundation President, and the Foundation will distribute $9,970,750 in awards in FY2018.
Dr. Matteson closed with a moving story about an abstract on the therapeutic effects of cortisone, which was presented at the 1949 American Rheumatism Association meeting in New York. Dr. Matteson presented a copy of the 1949 abstract book to the ACR as a gift, which will be displayed in a glass case at the ACR’s Atlanta headquarters.
General Business: The Board also approved the audited financial statements for the 2017 fiscal year, new ACR and ARHP members, and position statements on clinical lab testing and medical liability.