Now more than ever, preventive health care is crucial—that means it’s imperative that we identify and close the gaps in women’s health care to help improve patients’ outcomes. The United States’ health care system is expensive and its cost is unsustainable for patients, physicians, and the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking place against a backdrop of these stressors, and lack of access to health care for some, gaps in care for others, and political interference in the patient–physician relationship are having severe effects on patient health. It is clear that an investment in preventive care can have returns that make a world of difference down the road for women’s health.
My name is Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, and I will serve as the president of ACOG for the 2020–21 term. As ACOG’s 71st president, I’m committed to personalizing patient care to support better health outcomes by finding gaps in the ways in which we care for patients. As obstetrician–gynecologists, we’re critical members of women’s health care teams. Frequently, we’re the only physicians who care for women throughout the entirety of their lives. This puts us in the unique position to create and implement solutions to personalize and optimize our patients’ health care so that no patient gets left behind.
Historically, there are some obstacles in the way of not only facilitating personalized and preventive health care for our patients but also providing care. We’ve already seen obstetrician–gynecologists’ reimbursement suffer under the cost-cutting measures of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate Program, implemented between 1997 and 2015. While the conversion factor per unit of work should have increased by adjusting for inflation, it has actually decreased, and is estimated to further decrease significantly for 2021. Because obstetrician–gynecologists aren’t designated as primary care physicians by all insurers, despite often being a patient’s only physician, our specialty loses relevancy with hospital and health system leadership. Across-the-board primary care designation is a critical step to increasing reimbursement rates for obstetrician–gynecologists, and increased focus on preventive care will help us better care for patients, strengthen and deepen the physician-patient relationship, and emphasize the importance and value of obstetrics and gynecology to insurers, hospital systems, and patients alike.
To move toward personalized health care, a very talented, diverse, and dedicated group of physicians and experts agreed to participate in the new Presidential Initiative Task Force, led by chair Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, and co-chair Katie McHugh, MD. We will begin executing our mission by highlighting the value of obstetrician–gynecologists in delivering personalized health care through a marketing campaign to members and patients. Women’s Preventive Services Initiative guidelines and implementation recommendations and other ACOG guidance documents will help us develop tools to focus our practices on more efficient, personalized care. We will present our work at the 2021 ACOG Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting.
As I begin my presidency in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my focus, first and foremost, is my fellow members and the patients you serve. We are looking ahead to improving the way we practice medicine, fortifying our resources, and amplifying awareness around gaps in preventive care. However, I would also like to recognize the incredible work that you all have done as dedicated obstetrician–gynecologists and physicians during this crisis. Thank you for all that you have done and will do to care for the patients who need you now more than ever.
Please know that I am committed to supporting you, your patients, and the future of our profession. Personalized women’s health care is our future—especially now, when women are counting on us to help them stay healthy and offer them the best-available treatments when they need them.
Keep an eye out for more news on my presidential initiative and other ACOG initiatives as our work continues. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly through ACOG Engage.