The U.S. health care system is complex and difficult to navigate for many patients. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the structure of the health care industry has rapidly evolved. Following the election, the changes coming to the ACA, which could include the Trump administration repealing and replacing it, will bring more shifts and uncertainty. Moreover, with alternative payment models currently set to become the new norm in the near future, many physicians are struggling to adjust quickly. At the same time, patients will inevitability face the impacts of these transformations firsthand.
In the current health care environment, it is critically important for medical residents to have training in health policy to better understand, and be involved in impacting, the policy changes that will affect their patients’ health care and wellbeing.
The Training in Policy Studies (TIPS) program, now offered through the AOA, offers resident physicians a cost-effective way to obtain this training. Through the TIPS program, residents receive specialized instruction that helps them navigate the most challenging policy issues.
How the TIPS program works
Over the course of the year, TIPS participants will meet for three to four two-day live sessions and several videoconferences, during which they will spend time dissecting health policy-related issues. Discussion topics change year-to-year based on current events. During our participation in the 2015-2016 program year, sessions included in-depth discussions focused on the U.S. health care system, an analysis of other systems around the world, graduate medical education and leadership styles.
Leadership development is a key focus for the program. During one of our sessions, we were taught to speak to government officials and how to approach staffers on Capitol Hill as constituents. Emphasis is placed on providing the politician with information on current policies or suggesting new ideas that decrease disease burden, increase access to care, and promote wellbeing. In this way, students are taught to be influential to policymakers on issues that are familiar to physicians.
The TIPS program accepts residents of all specialties and backgrounds, thus promoting ‘thought diversity.’ Residents are taught to focus on the issues at hand, leaving personal and political bias aside to attain the “higher ground.” As this is a central theme to the fellowship, participants focus on advocating for patients and moreover, learn to act as subject matter experts on vital health care issues.
Why policy training matters
Physicians have many responsibilities, including taking care of patients with a wide array of ailments, educating and counseling patients, and serving as a source of hope, often when times are difficult. Because of their experience and expertise, physicians are also well-equipped to serve as health policy experts. By obtaining extra training in the policy issues that affect patients, physicians can dramatically increase their advocacy impact.
The TIPS program not only gives physicians the background knowledge to evaluate an issue and construct a comprehensive policy, but also empowers physicians to become leaders to influence change. There is no better time for residents to become involved on a local, regional or national level, and the TIPS program can provide the first step into the complex arena of health policy.
About the authors: Amit Bhojwani, DO, is an otolaryngology resident at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey, a member of the AOA’s Bureau of Federal Health Programs, and a 2015-2016 TIPS program alum. Evan G. Mason, DO, is a diagnostic radiology resident at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a member of the AOA’s Bureau of Osteopathic Education and a 2015-2016 TIPS program alum.