At 29 years old and fresh into a new job, I attended my first HIMSS education session at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, a suburb outside of Dallas. This CIO round table discussion is an event our chapter hosts annually, based on the tremendous respect our members have for local CIOs.
At the end of the session, I listened to a brief presentation on the importance advocacy plays in the healthcare community. At the time, I was trying to understand how I could impact HIMSS locally and continue to grow in my career. Although the session influenced what would eventually become years of service, I still left thinking – what in the heck is advocacy?
What Is Advocacy?
In a few months, a chapter leader asked me to join the programs committee and work with our current chapter president Shana Berger. I felt extremely fortunate to have the opportunity and was excited to understand the plans for our chapter.
Coincidentally, the board recently had decided to take a knee, eliminate the role of advocacy, and finally answer the questions:
- What is advocacy?
- How do we, as a board, add value to our members?
I was a little relieved I was not the only one who needed clarification.
Our then Chapter President Joe Jackson and President-elect Lee Lavergne approached Donna Montgomery, vice president, nursing informatics and clinical excellence, Baylor Scott and White, to set goals and come up with a strategy to demonstrate value to our membership.
We educated our board members on advocacy and identified our advocacy messaging strategy. "We approached it as our chapter’s contribution to membership," said Jackson.
It became clear that our board must inspire the membership before those members would take action. We began to see an increase in participation and new growth in overall membership.
From 2014 to 2017,
- We had no members on the DFW HIMSS Advocacy Committee; today, we have 7.
- We increased our chapter membership from 700 members to 2,200 members.
The growth in our committee and overall membership is a direct result of the time our board has spent defining advocacy and creating educational programs that allow for stronger vendor/provider relationships.
We took the redefined message to state and federal legislators. We, as a board, saw advocacy as the best way to influence decisions made at the state and federal levels, acting as the conduit of communication for those whose jobs directly impact patient care.
In April, we traveled to Austin, Texas, for Health IT Day, bringing 172 volunteers to meet with the local legislators. In fact, I am quite proud that 126 of those volunteers traveled from the DFW area as representatives for the chapter.
"Building relationships through advocacy at the state level has been paramount. Now, we need to build relationships at a national level. The goal is to have the trust of our legislatures and local members of Congress, who will view HIMSS as a resource for them, and are comfortable enough to give us a call," stated Donna Montgomery, vice president of advocacy with DFW Chapter of HIMSS.
We believe advocacy is the most valuable initiative our board can do for the membership, period. Over the past few years, our members have actively participated because they were excited and inspired to make a difference.
Shortly after our visit to Austin, the Texas Senate passed a bill (SB 1107) easing restrictions on telemedicine, eliminating the need for costly in-person patient/ physician consultations.