Summer in Colorado has brought a new sense of relief to many, not just as nature comes back to its fullest vibrancy after the darkness and cold of winter, but as more Coloradans age 16 and over are receiving COVID-19 vaccines, businesses are reopening and people are able to gather again face-to-face. It’s not necessarily a return to normal as physicians bear the battle wounds of a challenging year, but as we move out of the chaos and into the future, the Colorado Medical Society would like to revisit the actions taken to address members’ needs. We have accomplished a lot together and there is still much left to do.

Internal processes

  • Created a COVID-19 microsite within CMS.org to provide the latest information in nine categories: Testing, care protocols and guidance, telehealth, PPE/supplies, financial support, workforce issues, physician wellness, payer issues and vaccine updates – with CMS staff curating a different category throughout the year.

  • Became experts in webinars, hosting 12 virtual Physicians’ Town Halls and seven Virtual Grand Rounds on COVID-19 topics, and five focused topic-specific webinars. Physicians who attended all of these events earned up to 16 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ and seven COPIC Points.

  • Published guides and primers for Colorado physicians on how to:

    • apply for PPP loans and financial assistance

    • reopen your medical practice

    • resume elective and voluntary procedures

    • implement new paid leave laws

  • Launched a COVID-19 discussion forum through the Basecamp platform that, at its peak, allowed more than 500 physicians and practice staff to share best practices, resources and boots-on-the-ground experience – particularly in the early pandemic.

  • Unified 22 medical specialty and component societies – the Colorado House of Medicine – to magnify our influence and best serve Colorado physicians. This partnership carried on through the pandemic into our advocacy and public policy work in 2020 and 2021. See page 19 for the members of the House of Medicine.

Advocacy

  • Fought to defend confidentiality in physician peer assistance counseling through letter writing, signature gathering, testimony, and preparations for potential legislative or legal challenges.

  • Launched the Policy Pulse e-newsletter to keep members in the know about all the happenings at the legislature.

  • Supported legislation to help physician practices and improve patient health and safety:

    • expanded telehealth

    • defended physicians from dangerous scope of practice expansions

    • increased regulations around vaccine exemptions

    • worked to protect physicians while increasing access to care in the public option

Aiding practices

  • Spearheaded a bulk order and distribution of personal protective equipment at competitive prices to Colorado physicians when these materials were in short supply or skyrocketing in price. A total of 121,980 pieces were delivered around the state. Later CMS sought a partnership with ActionPPE to ensure ongoing availability and reliable shipments of PPE; orders can still be fulfilled presently.
  • Partnered with Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to get physicians and their staffs vaccinated against COVID-19 when vaccine appointments were sparse.

  • Created the Partners in Medicine program and Partners in Medicine Lunch and Learn webinar series to connect physicians with vetted companies providing services to improve practice operations and personal wellbeing.

  • Coordinated a contact tracing volunteer program to mobilize 216 volunteer contact tracers in local health departments early in the pandemic.

  • Partnered with CDPHE to get COVID-19 vaccines into private primary care physicians’ offices to leverage the physician-patient relationship and reach underserved populations.

Membership

  • Opened all CMS committee and board meetings to the full membership for greater transparency and engagement.
  • Developed a strategic plan and operational plan that will prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion; help to protect physicians’ rights to confidential counseling; and focus on membership retention and engagement and increasing membership.
  • Provided financial help for physicians in need through CMS’s Jane Nugent Cochems Trust.
  • Created the membership concierge help desk: “Ask us anything” by emailing membership@cms.org.

Education of the public

  • Released a public service announcement in partnership with the American Medical Association on COVID-19 prevention measures for the general public.
  • Launched #CMSWhatsYourWhy to raise awareness of the COVID-19 vaccines and reduce hesitancy among patients.

Physician wellness

  • Partnered with the Colorado Physician Health Program, COPIC, Colorado Hospital Association and Colorado Psychiatric Society on the COVID-19 Care Line for Physicians to ensure access to peer support.
  • Expanded the work of the CMS Physician Wellness Committee.
  • Began a CMS Physician Mindfulness Group to share strategies for improving quality of life.

CMS shared the stories of many Colorado physicians as they quickly adjusted to public health recommendations and new patient preferences. We followed up with them to see how they had fared over the past year and what changed in their practices.

Vinh Chung, MD, author of “Leaders eat last,” Colorado Medicine May/June 2020, wrote about staff pulling together to help each other.

“When essential services were halted, many on our team voluntarily made sacrifices so that we could make it through as one team. We dug deep into our values of humility, integrity, and excellence. Not only did we come through stronger, but we are more determined to live out our mission to make a positive impact on our patients, our community, and our world. Our team has grown, we have opened more offices, and we have increased our humanitarian work locally and around the world.”

Brandi Ring, MD, author of “Adapting care and protocols during the pandemic,” Colorado Medicine May/June 2020, wrote about providing obstetrics care that could not be halted or delayed.

“Phone and video visits have changed the way patients can interact with their doctors…. Patient convenience and compliance are prioritized, while compassion and caring can still be provided in abundance. Innovation has been created out of necessity and now that the systems have been built, their convenience will continue to keep them operational. While the storm has been destructive, the silver lining has been deeper connections with those closest to us, our families, those families both by blood and by choice. Close friends have become closer and those of us who weathered the storm together have connections only forged through a collective experience of survival.”

John Bender, MD, MBA, author of “In the trenches: COVID-19 in a family medicine clinic," Colorado Medicine May/June 2020, wrote about hunting PPE, spinning up testing and furloughing staff to stay afloat.

“We used our Paycheck Protection Program funds to hire our furloughed staff back, and to transition to an employee-owned company. We used our CARES Act moneys to launch COVID antigen testing and antibody testing; we added contactless prescription vending machines in the lobby where the chairs used to be; and we deployed a medical van that could bring technology to patients who could not access telehealth.”


Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine