Reminiscing…Success and Challenge in 2013–2014

Benjamin F. Byrd, III, MD, FASE

It goes without saying that I have enjoyed serving as your ASE President tremendously over the past year—hard work, but truly exhilarating at many times. This has been a wonderfully successful year for ASE in so many ways! These successes will be celebrated at our 25 th Annual Silver Anniversary Scientific Sessions on June 20–24, and our 5 th Annual ASEF Gala on Midsummer’s Night, June 21. But let me provide a few specifics.

ASE membership continues to thrive and attract practitioners from all over the world. Fifteen percent of our 16,000 members live outside the United States. And, growth in young members has also been exciting. ASE has gained 11% more young sonographer members and 23% more young physician members since last year.

Our ASE budget is balanced, and our endowment is healthy, as is that of the ASE Foundation, which ASE supports as the vehicle for our research and humanitarian efforts. In fact, this year the Foundation will support the largest research grant in our ASE history, offering up to $200,000 to obtain data that demonstrates the impact of echocardiography on patient outcomes!

The organization runs on its volunteers and staff, and both have never been stronger. Our volunteer leadership is solid in every area, from Guidelines to Research, and on to the Finance Committee and our Treasurer. We had over 90 new applications from ASE members seeking volunteer positions in service to ASE this year, and almost all of them will find a spot. ASE Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Robin Wiegerink, does an outstanding job leading a very strong, stable staff of 25 sturdy souls at ASE headquarters outside Raleigh, NC. She makes the job of ASE leadership so much easier, as do the efforts of all her great staffers.

Our members always list Education and Advocacy as their two top priorities for ASE, and both these areas have seen real successes in the last year:

Education : Our efforts to provide worldwide education grow consistently—more live webinars, online articles, and captured webinars than ever are available to members and non-members at . Our ASE guidelines are translated into French, Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese; and almost a dozen new guidelines are now in various stages of production. For example, as part of our ongoing effort to encourage the appropriate use of echo contrast to help provide an optimal echocardiogram every time, an updated guideline, “Cardiac Sonographer in the Performance of Contrast Echo,” will appear this year. Our new “Best of ASE” educational products have been well-received in 2014, and we are very proud to have won a $50,000 Robert W. Johnson Foundation grant to produce and disseminate an Echo AUC app for smartphones as part of our work in the ABIM’s “Choosing Wisely” program. Our newly developed MOC product (Case-Based Learning: Volumes 1 and 2) is a self-evaluation MOC program in echocardiography (10 points per volume!). ASE has also established new partnerships to provide education on point-of-care ultrasound, and we will be working with CAE Healthcare to provide a hands-on, point-of-care ultrasound seminar November, 15-16, 2014 in Sarasota, Florida. Finally, our live courses—such as Echo Florida, Echo Hawaii, ASCeXAM/ReASCE Review Course, State-of-the- Art, and Scientific Sessions—are running at capacity and considering ways to expand in the future. Our members’ thirst for knowledge and desire to stay at the forefront of this exciting, fast-moving field seems unquenchable!

Advocacy : With the leadership of Dr. David Wiener and hard work by volunteers (Drs. Mike Main, Mike Picard, and John Dent, to name just three), the Advocacy Committee has had important successes this year. Based on our face-to-face testimony at their offices, CMS did not adopt its proposal to stop payment to hospitals for the technical portion of transthoracic echo (CPT code 93306) when it is performed on the same day as clinic visits, ED visits, and a variety of other procedures (such as nuclear cardiac stress testing). Increased payments to office practitioners for code 93306 may be in the offing as well, as ASE efforts over several years to have CMS value a standard “echo room” seem likely to have reached fruition. Challenges in this area abound, of course: a “Site Neutrality” provision remains a possible add-on to any piece of legislation passing through Congress, and it would reduce hospital technical charge payments to match those in physician offices after the draconian 40% cuts imposed on office-based practices between 2009 and 2013; an amendment could be added to an “SGR fix” rebranding echocardiography as an “Advanced Cardiac Imaging” modality and requiring that appropriate use consultation be documented whenever ordering an echocardiogram—with “outlier physicians” subject to pre-authorization requirements; and “In-office Ancillary Services” (“Stark Law”) changes could threaten a physician’s ability to order an echocardiogram on a patient in his office or hospital clinic and then have the study done by any member of his group, if it is a single billing entity. To maximize our chances of success in the faces of these challenges, last year ASE retained a lobbyist, Ms. Peggy Tighe, to work on Capitol Hill on our behalf. Already evidence is mounting that she has been successful in building bridges to key Congressmen and Senators on behalf of ASE, assuring that both they and their staffers are well-informed on critical issues—and that we will not be caught by surprise with legislation added to a bill during midnight negotiations.

One of my goals during my presidency was to gather leaders in the healthcare field, including cardiologists, researchers, patient advocates, industry heads, third-party payers, and government and regulatory overseers, to examine the ways that echocardiography can deliver superior value in the changing healthcare environment. This goal will be achieved on Friday, September 12, 2014 with the ASEF-sponsored “Summit 2014: A Focus on the Value of Echocardiography” in Washington, DC. Participants will serve on panels exploring the unique and valuable role that cardiovascular ultrasound can play in patient-centered healthcare—discussing the improvement of patient outcomes, the effects of physician practice models, and greater contributions to clinical research.

Though I step down as ASE’s President this month, I will remain quite active in supporting both my successor, Dr. Neil Weissman, and the Society. I salute all its members for their commitment to excellence in cardiovascular ultrasound.

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May 31, 2018 | Posted by in CARDIOLOGY | Comments Off on Reminiscing…Success and Challenge in 2013–2014

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