ATLANTA, GA USA | MAY/JUNE 2018 – Concierge Medicine Today, the independent health care publication and information depository of the Concierge Medicine industry released new polling data summarizing the national opinions about the value, role, membership, fees and other important issues advocated for and at medical associations, physician societies, etc. [April/May 2018]. They found Physicians have a large number of concerns about how these groups assimilate medical journal data, views on patient care, the role of technology in a practice to healthcare reform.
Concierge Medicine Today (CMT) polled Physicians both in and outside of the Concierge Medicine space for a more accurate opinion and picture related to these topic.
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Most doctors join medical societies and associations for what they can get, not for what they can contribute. Maybe this paradigm should be reversed. Often the decision to join is influenced by a medical association’s position on hot-button political issues, such as healthcare reform.
“There is no better strategy than a major issue campaign to increase the number of people in an association or professional society,” said Catherine Sykes, Publisher of Concierge Medicine Today, The Direct Primary Care Journal and Concierge Medicine Canada. “If properly managed, associations will use a new issue campaign as an opportunity to expand their sources of information and the number of people involved in that aspect of the work. Most organizations focus on building a membership network and often underestimate the need to build the value of their own organizations while struggling to win on public issues. As in the case of the corn farmer from Iowa, the thought is ‘if you build it, they will come.’”
We found that many medical associations’ benefits are similar: access to discounts on medical devices; discounts on malpractice insurance; CME credit courses and webinars; hands-on help in choosing an EMR/EHR; participation at national or regional events and conferences; and advocacy for issues affecting members.
It’s the last benefit where the difference in associations is generally revealed.
In the early 1950s, approximately 75% of US physicians were AMA members. That percentage has steadily decreased over the years. In June 2011, at the annual meeting of its policy-making body, the House of Delegates, the AMA announced that it had lost another 12,000 members last year. The AMA represents about one-third of the nation’s doctors. It publishes the weekly Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the most prestigious and influential American medical journals, as well as a host of other journals and books. Members have access to data services and to insurance through its insurance arm. The AMA is one of the nation’s leading lobbying forces, and its political action committee, which dispenses money to political campaigns, is also one of the nation’s wealthiest. The association runs awareness campaigns on health issues and works to shape governmental policy that affects doctors and patients. The AMA derives about one-quarter of its revenue through its annual membership fees. Other revenue comes from corporate grants and from sale of its publications and data services. Policy for the AMA is set by its 550-member House of Delegates.
Example: Simply type in the words ‘medical association’ and 29,200,000 plus results are found on Google alone. Pages in the category “Medical associations based in the United States” include 200+ pages are in the category, out of approximately 260 pages total. This list may not reflect recent changes. Source: American Board of Medical Specialties.
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Throughout an entire career however, physicians are faced with recurring questions related to medical associations: Which associations should I join? Which should I retain membership in? How do you decide which associations to pass on altogether? Simply type in the words ‘medical association’ and 29,200,000 plus results are found on Google alone.
“When nearly sixty percent of physicians in 2017 cite that they took Less than 5 Business Education courses …, certainly associations and physician groups must learn to adapt to the needs of its base. However, Concierge Medicine and its variants operating in the U.S. today work because so many people have made it work. Concierge Medicine and the like, work because a few visioneering physicians broke every standard delivery tradition they knew to embrace the mission of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated,” adds Sykes.
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Following that, in November 2016, Becker’s Hospital Review cited relevant physician association challenges and wrote that nationally, 57.4 percent of physicians are part of a state medical society; 73.8 percent of physicians are members of a national specialty society; 31 percent of physicians are a current Member of the American Medical Association; and finally, 10.1. percent of physicians are a Member of the American Osteopathic Association.
However, even with so many options today and increasing annual dues, the membership of the American College of Physicians for example, nearly doubled between 1995 and 2009, reaching 130,000 members. The American College of Surgeons, with 77,000 members, has also seen tremendous growth in the past three decades. In June, the American Academy of Family Physicians announced that its membership had reached an all-time high of 100,300. 
Today there are countless, hundreds, if not thousands of medical societies, specialist associations and clubs, large and small that a Physician can join. In our research for this story alone, one purportedly large directory of 230 medical associations and medical organizations covers 112 different subjects and categories.
We also found that many medical associations and societies have joined the campaign for meaningful medical liability reform. Some have even adopted Direct Primary Care (DPC) to attract younger and additional new members, yet entice and encourage older members to keep their membership or renew by advocating for things some in DPC space frown upon. Other medical societies for example, support cannabis reform, while others do not. Strikingly, in September of 2017, The Washington Post was unable to identify any medical associations that support the Cassidy-Graham bill.
There is also a legislative aspect to societal membership since many medical associations have a professional government affairs staff working on the members’ behalf to impact federal legislative and regulatory processes directly related to the member’s practice and patients.
When we asked Physicians [nationally] the following question in Q-1 of 2018, ‘In 2017-2018, how successful were societies and medical associations at meeting your practice needs? Please check all that apply.’
- 25% said in 2018 — “While I pay my member dues, I do not feel like I have an actual voice.”
- 23% said in 2018 — “Not very helpful. I pay my membership but regular assistance from groups both large and small is yet to impact my practice.”
- 20% said in 2018 — “Today, there are too many groups, clubs, societies, associations to choose from.”
- 10% said in 2018 — “Nationally, I’ve found that membership with a National group has impacted my practice negatively in the past year.”
- 8% said in 2018 — “I find my opinions DO NOT align with majority of the members.”
Today, optimism regarding Concierge Medicine, the delivery of Direct Primary Care and other private medicine business structures remains high among both consumers, executive healthcare professionals and physicians alike. In fact, a recent career satisfaction poll of the private physician community [e.g. Concierge Medicine, Direct Primary Care, Micro Clinic, etc.], reveals that nearly 90% of physicians in this niche community of healthcare professionals are highly satisfied with their career move into these entrepreneurial healthcare delivery business models There are models in which patients pay either an annual membership or monthly fee to be a part of the doctor’s practice.
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