As reform pushes healthcare into uncharted terrain, groups in different industry sectors are staking out new territory, defending their turf or just trying to survive.
While one group's advocate may be viewed by others as a “special interest,” trade groups, associations, unions and advocacy organizations are playing a bigger role than ever in shaping the nation's healthcare system.
Among the seven people who have made the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare
rankings in all 12 years Modern Healthcare has compiled the list, three are heads of advocacy associations: Chip Kahn, CEO, Federation of American Hospitals
, an association for investor-owned hospitals, No. 33; RoseAnn DeMoro
, executive director of the National Nurses United union, No. 35; and Karen Ignagni
, CEO of the America's Health Insurance Plans trade association, No. 75.
Another 12-timer is Drew Altman
, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation healthcare and policy research organization, No. 32 on this year's ranking. On the organization's website, Altman says the goal of the foundation is to “serve as a source of trusted information in a healthcare world dominated by vested interests.”
DeMoro says the uncertainty in healthcare is creating confusion along with opportunities for consultants who are selling technology as a cure-all for shrinking profits and increasing labor costs. “We're facing an environment where technology is just considered to be the god in the healthcare sector and the challenge for the nurse is to actually have the caring process continue for the patients,” she says. Now, she adds, “nurses are supposed to relate to the machine rather than the patient.”
In addition to the Most Influential perennials, more than two dozen association or advocacy group leaders are included in this year's ranking.
While hospital associations, medical societies and other like-minded organizations have long been involved in shaping healthcare policy, consumer-oriented organizations such as AARP are gaining prominence. A. Barry Rand
, the organization's CEO, says AARP's involvement in healthcare is nothing new.
“AARP has a long history of fighting for access to affordable healthcare,” Rand, No. 39 on the list, says in an e-mail. “Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired teacher, founded our organization in an effort to make sure that retired teachers could obtain health coverage. AARP is committed to helping our members and all Americans live life to the fullest, from helping people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities to fighting on issues that matter most; healthcare is one critical piece of that.”Dr. David Blumenthal
, president of the Commonwealth Fund, based in New York, has made the switch from government regulator to leading a private research and philanthropic organization. Blumenthal served as the national coordinator for healthcare information technology from 2009 to 2011. In comparing roles, Blumenthal says working for the government requires more visibility and media contact, “a lot of input to manage,” and accountability in a short time frame. In his new role, he says he is doing much of the same, but with more time and freedom.
“We call attention to problems and solutions,” says Blumenthal, No. 93 on the list, in describing his new job. “It's a great privilege to have the role and have the opportunity to channel funds—even if they are fairly modest—into what I and my colleagues believe are the great issues of the day. Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks