Remember the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”? I think you’ll agree that it’s never been more “interesting” for the echocardiography community than it is right now, what with reimbursement cuts, the development of accountable care organizations, decreasing educational funding from industry, increasing ultrasound use by nontraditional users, and competition for both health care dollars and for our brightest fellows, for whom we compete with alternative imaging modalities such as CT and MRI. How ASE responds to these challenges will determine whether the field that we love will thrive in the future or merely survive (or worse) in the years to come. Of course, the staff and leadership of ASE are always on guard to react to new issues as they arise (such as a recent effort by nurse anesthetists in South Carolina, who appealed to the medical board to be allowed to both perform and interpret intraoperative echoes, an effort countered by quick action from our Perioperative Council and Advocacy Committee). But navigating an optimal path to the future requires developing a multi-year strategic plan, where we declare our long-term goals and map specific approaches to achieving them.
In early March, the ASE Board of Directors and other key leaders met over three days near our North Carolina headquarters to explore, in detail, the current environment for echocardiography and to develop a strategic plan for the future. The first day was our usual board business, with an orientation session for new board members and council chairs, followed by a 3 hour board meeting over dinner, where we reviewed current activities and enjoyed a moving presentation by Partho Sengupta and Rhonda Price on the recent India medical camp.
Early Friday morning we got down to the serious business of strategic planning. To guide us through this process, we were very fortunate in having Tom Ryan serve as our moderator. Tom was our president in 2007–2008, so he is very familiar with the mission and activities of ASE, but far enough out from his term to be able to take the long view of the society without getting caught up in the minutiae of our current activities. He’s also one of the fairest, most reasonable people I know. Our efforts were to update our 2005 strategic plan, focusing on a 3-5 year time-frame. Given the rapid changes in health care, we felt it impractical to look farther out than this. After Tom explained the process for the retreat, I gave a bird’s eye view of current ASE activities, Patty explored changes in the echo world since 2005, and Robin presented the results of the membership survey we conducted prior to the retreat. My thanks to all of you who contributed to this survey, as it helped guide our deliberations.
After a break, we engaged in the ASE version of speed dating, where 12 stations were set up and we were given the chance to spend 10 minutes at each one to hear current activities and issues on a variety of topics: membership, JASE , education, research, products, quality, Foundation, advocacy, communications/social media, global outreach, finance, and FASE. This led into a detailed SWOT analysis, in which retreat attendees were asked to write down what they saw as the Society’s s trengths and w eaknesses, as well as the o pportunities and t hreats offered by the external environment. We then explored several major trends impacting echocardiography, including the growth of nontraditional uses of ultrasound (ER, ICU, hospitalists, etc); the anticipated impact of health care reform, including the development of Accountable Care Organizations; and growing opportunities in the international arena. At the end of this long day, we charged the group to individually craft 3 or 4 major goals for the society to consider for the next few years.
Early the next morning Tom, Patty, Robin, Hilary, and I reviewed the many goals suggested on Friday afternoon. They tended to fall into broad categories of quality, member services, education, research, and advocacy. We then crafted some draft goals and presented them to the group. After spirited discussion to refine their wording, we split up into 4 groups, each to work on one of the proposed goals, finalizing the wording and suggesting several strategies to achieve their goal. After a further period of debate and discussion, we finalized the following goals for ASE:
Improve the global dissemination and implementation of cardiovascular ultrasound quality in all clinical settings.
Establish ASE as the premier worldwide organization for membership and education in cardiovascular ultrasound.
Promote research and innovation in cardiovascular ultrasound.
Position echocardiography as the most valuable imaging technique in the changing healthcare environment.
Each goal has four or five specific strategies that will be refined over the next few months and mapped to resources within the society. For example, we will increase our membership by increasing outreach and targeting benefits to specific groups. To promote research and innovation, we will build on our partnerships with NIH, FDA, other government agencies, and with industry. With our advocacy efforts, we will develop and propose adaptive strategies to help our members manage the changes in healthcare anticipated over the next several years. Perhaps most importantly, we will promote ultrasound quality by fostering high standards in all clinical environments, be they domestic or international, focused acquisition or high end. We anticipate having our full strategic plan finalized by the time of our annual scientific sessions (which I hope you ALL are planning to attend!).
All in all, I felt this was a very productive exercise in developing ASE strategy, with great involvement from the board and other attendees. I am so grateful to all who took time out of their busy schedules to focus on the future of our society, particularly Tom Ryan, who proved to be the perfect moderator. I feel confident that we have a solid roadmap to the future and the right leadership to get us there, with Patty Pellikka, Ben Byrd, and Neil Weissman presiding over ASE in the next three years.
If you’d like to read more about the retreat and see lots of pictures, I invite you to log onto my presidential blog ( http://connect.asecho.org/ASECHO/Blogs/PresidentsBlog/ ) and check out the March 1-3 entries.