By Nicole Heath Bixler, DO, MBA, FACOFP
ACOFP President

What is innovation? At the core, it is a concept that refers to an individual or organization developing new ideas, enacting new processes or taking a different approach to an existing plan. It is not just a buzzword; it is a necessary component to remain relevant and successful. This has become even more important as technological advances in learning, medicine and business are an almost daily occurrence. Add a once-in-a-century global pandemic to the mix, and the need to innovate has become a survival mechanism.

So how is ACOFP rising to the challenge to remain true to its core values while innovating to meet the demands of today’s osteopathic family physicians? By taking a deeper look at our educational products, our governance structure and our responsibility to promote health equity and social justice. Additionally, we have established our advocacy priorities to align with your needs as physicians practicing in an environment that is continually influenced by scientific and technological advancements.

When I worked with ACOFP staff and leaders to create the Task Force on Convention Innovation in December 2019, we had no idea that our need for innovation would be at the hands of a virus that precluded us from meeting in person in New Orleans in March 2020. One year later, our collective duty to the health and safety of our communities and families has brought us to our second virtual ACOFP Annual Convention and Scientific Seminars.

Educating in this completely virtual platform allows us the opportunity to expand our content and allows you the flexibility to learn at your convenience. During the convention, you can connect with your colleagues through virtual discussions and various networking tools, while hearing from our convention partners as they provide you with the latest in cost-effective solutions and products that will allow your practice and patients to thrive. These changes in our convention delivery may have been forced upon us, but we know there is no going back. We will continue to implement the recommendations of the task force by personalizing the attendee experience, diversifying our educational choices and examining how we will evolve into a hybrid educational meeting in the future.

As we continue to revolutionize our CME offerings, we must support those efforts with an effective governance structure and a clear mission. To that end, with the help of an external advisory group, we have completed the first assessment of our current governance structure compared to other healthcare organizations and industry leaders. Our next step involves collecting additional member feedback, completing a deeper-dive assessment and making recommendations for more inclusive and efficient governance, while maximizing our volunteer and staff resources to advance the strategy of ACOFP. The goal of this work is to allow our organization to remain proactive, relevant and adaptable.

Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

—William Pollard, American physicist

In tandem with our convention and governance task forces, there was a definitive need to establish the Task Force on Racism and Health to develop new plans to address existing disparities. Expanding upon the exploratory meetings of our three sub-committees, our next steps include developing a defined work plan to help family physicians play a role in ending health disparities due to racism and discrimination.

The very institution of osteopathic medicine is based on the holistic approach to a patient, which certainly includes understanding a patient’s personal experiences with discriminatory behavior based on race, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, geography and socioeconomic status. As physicians, we have an opportunity to lead the transformation and healing of our communities that have been devastated by inequality. This will only be possible if we continue to advocate for the value and innovative spirit that family physicians can provide to all patient populations.

ACOFP has determined the following as its healthcare system reform advocacy priorities for 2021:

  • Protect patients from COVID-19
  • Encourage appropriate use of telehealth
  • Address the family physician shortage
  • Reduce unnecessary paperwork requirements
  • Improve outcomes and decrease costs through primary care and support of family physicians
  • Preserve the family medicine model of care
  • Focus on vulnerable populations and address racial disparities
  • Address the opioid crisis

As an organization, we look forward to continued creativity and innovation in addressing the needs of our members and our patients. I am appreciative of the hard work and dedication of our committees, task forces, governors and staff who have made ACOFP successful in its endeavors thus far. As we continue our efforts, we will keep the words of American physicist William Pollard in mind: “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” May we all be successful in our tomorrows.

Leave a Reply