HIMSS advocacy expert explains how hospitals can reach policymakers

By Dave Muoio

Professionals working day to day in care facilities will make an unmatched impact on their patients’ health, but much of that work is driven, for better or worse, by decisions made on Capitol Hill. 

While many may feel ineffective when faced with sweeping decrees from lawmakers or health agencies, Jeff Coughlin, senior director of federal and state affairs at HIMSS, said that he wants to remind those working at the community level of their potential influence on health policy. 

“There’s nothing more frustrating than walking into a meeting with a purpose and not getting to put that idea forward, to emphasize that idea during the meeting,” he said. “So develop a clear and concise ask, use the data that your facility or practice is collecting to guide your treatment patterns and outcomes for your patients and make sure that you understand what other folks in academia or in other places are saying about that specific issue.”

Coughlin will be speaking at HIMSS18 on the value of a sustained advocacy program for a healthcare facility, especially for those working within the transforming health IT space, including guidance on how to gather data points and present them in a way that will make an impression on policymakers.

Coughlin also suggested that facilities take advantage of every available resource they have to impact policy, whether that be advocacy groups like HIMSS or an opportunity for public comment on a new rule proposal. 

“Ultimately, I think the work you do at an advocacy level is going to help improve the health of your community and is going to help improve the lives of your patients,” he said. “If you can translate your message to a policymaker that can initiate some change in a policy, that could have broader implications improving the care that gets delivered to patients.” 

Coughlin will be speaking in the session, “Disrupt advocacy: Put what you know to work for patients,” scheduled at 4 p.m. March 7 in the Venetian, Marcello 4405.