by Kate Alfano, CMS Communications Coordinator
Featured in the November-December 2019 Colorado Medicine Colorado Medicine.
The Colorado Medical Society has undergone a powerful transformation since embarking on cutting-edge communications and governance reforms in 2014. These changes have moved the organization from vertical to horizontal, empowering all members to be engaged, informed and more empowered than ever before.
The heart of this effort is Central Line, CMS’s virtual policy engagement platform. With a few clicks of a mouse and from the convenience of a mobile device or computer, members can use Central Line to propose new policy ideas, collaborate and provide feedback on members’ policy ideas, and keep the CMS Board of Directors accountable for representing the interests of Colorado physicians.
Physician leaders and staff conceived the idea for Central Line as a response to member surveys that indicated the desire for greater input, participation and engagement with the medical society. A committee of physicians, led by Ray Painter, MD, and Robert Yakely, MD, envisioned the platform as a virtual grassroots policy communications process available for members to take action anytime on issues important to them and on issues being addressed by the CMS Board of Directors.
Yakely served as the last Speaker of the CMS House of Delegates and presided over the vote to dissolve the House of Delegates in favor of a new governance model. “It was designed to be almost a virtual method of duplicating what we’d done for many years to set policy for the medical society: A doctor comes up with an issue, writes a resolution and the resolution goes to the House of Delegates. Now all of our members are delegates; they comment on a proposed policy and ultimately the Board of Directors acts on it. But now you don’t have to give up a weekend to go to a meeting to influence the medical society.”
“It’s exciting when a plan comes together,” said Painter, who, like Yakely, is a CMS past president. “After the Colorado Medical Society decided to terminate the annual meetings in their traditional form, conducting society business electronically was the obvious choice for many reasons. First and foremost, the younger generation of physicians grew up with and prefers emails, texts and other types of electronic communication to phone calls and in-person meetings. Since they are the future of the society, the idea was to make important communication from the society and the necessary business that needed to be conducted simple, easy and quick. The staff has done an excellent job of developing, organizing and managing communication.”
“If you look at the numbers, it has far exceeded what we had hoped to achieve just in terms of member participation,” Yakely said. “Instead of 150 people making decisions for the entire membership, now thousands are able to participate.”
“It’s been very gratifying to see the increased number of physicians participating statewide,” Painter said. “Medical organizations, with the exception of specialty societies, are struggling nationwide with lack of participation and decreasing membership. Central Line has allowed CMS to communicate with members on their terms, improving participation and hopefully assisting in retaining membership.”
Yakely said the tremendous interest from other state medical societies affirms that CMS is on the cutting edge of how we’re working as an organization.
Painter agreed: “If CMS can be successful with person-to-person communication and assisting physician-to-physician communication, I think the entire experiment will continue to be successful.”