Regulatory relief top challenge of 2017

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Academy President Abel Torres, MD, JD, a Cleveland-based dermatologist and lawyer, recently discussed the top challenges and opportunities facing the specialty in 2017.

M2M: What are the biggest challenges facing the specialty in 2017?

Dr. Torres: The biggest challenge is an overall need for governmental regulatory relief. For example, we need relief from regulations imposed by the Affordable Care Act, MACRA, and electronic medical records.

In addition, we need relief from insurance restrictions, such as step therapy, prior authorization, and narrow network regulations. And also we need relief from specialty governing body rules, such as MOC rules.

M2M: How do you think the new Trump administration will impact regulations related to healthcare?

Dr. Torres: What is clear is that there's an opportunity for change. What that change will be is unclear right now. It's important to keep in mind that some of the current rules and regulations were bipartisan. However, the new administration certainly creates an opportunity for the Academy to advocate for change.

We need dermatologists to get involved in advocacy to take advantage of these new opportunities. We need members to be vigilant and act on Academy requests to send letters to legislators, and to complete surveys so we have the information we need to advocate for the specialty and to help our patients.

M2M: Your term as president expires in March 2017. What do you consider the major accomplishments during your tenure?

Dr. Torres: We've had a record year for legislative and philanthropic fundraising. In addition, we've had a record year for advocacy activities. For example, from the point of view of legislative activities, we've had success on indoor tanning. We've had success related to prior authorizations, narrow networks, and access to drugs. With MACRA, for example, the final rule took into consideration several of the Academy's requests. There's still much work to be done with MACRA, but we did have an impact on the final rule.

With the 21st Century Cure Act, the Academy supported the inclusion of provisions to facilitate interoperability between EHRs and clinician-led clinical data registries, such as the AAD's DataDerm, along with a measure to establish new penalties for vendor data blocking with the purpose of preventing EHR vendors from blocking the transmission of data to third parties. We also supported an increase in research funding and new medications.

In 2016, we established a new council on practice management. This council will advise the Academy as it creates its new Practice Management Center, which will launch in early 2017. This Practice Management Center will provide practical resources for dermatology practices, helping dermatologists maximize revenues and negotiate with private payers and Medicare. At launch, it will include resources on MACRA, prior authorization, and teledermatology, plus many other practical guides.

We've also had a banner year as it relates to media outreach and skin cancer prevention efforts. These efforts have helped educate the public and increased awareness of the specialty.

These efforts have been built on the successes of past presidents, boards of directors, and officers. So, I can take only partial credit for this year's successes.

We need dermatologists to get involved in advocacy to take advantage of these new opportunities.

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M2M: Your term as Academy president will end in March 2017. What was your experience like as president?

Dr. Torres: It's been a very busy year with a lot of travelling. I would describe it as good training to be a fireman. I've learned to put out fires. I've also learned that by putting out one fire, you sometimes start another one. So we need to carefully think through actions, because everything has a consequence.

I learned that the Academy has a great staff. It's a tremendous resource for the specialty. The Academy staff is one of our most important member benefits. The staff is very knowledgeable and capable, and always at the ready to help AAD members.

Another great asset is breadth and depth of our talented physician membership. We have a committed group of physicians who need to be recognized. At the Stars of the Academy reception at the AAD's Annual Meeting in Orlando, we'll recognize the prestigious award recipients of the Gold Medal; Master Dermatologist; Honorary Membership; Thomas G. Pearson, Ed.D. Memorial; Young Investigators in Dermatology; Presidential Citations and other award recipients.

I learned the importance of strength in numbers as it relates to advocacy. We need to act together as a specialty in order to make meaningful changes. And we need to collaborate with other groups, including the AMA. We may not agree with everything the AMA does, but by having a strong voice in the AMA, we're able to influence their policies. We need to grow our membership in the AMA in order to maintain the number of delegates who represent the specialty within the AMA House of Delegates. So, I encourage AAD members to renew their membership to the AMA, which will help dermatology's contingent grow and become more influential.