DC Influencer: Shawn Farley, American College of Radiology

Shawn Farley, director of public affairs at the American College of Radiology, talks to Virgil Dickson about beating back budget cuts.

Describe your recent effort that has thus far averted significant cuts to imaging reimbursement rates.
When the super committee process was announced and the administration recommended an additional $1.3 billion in imaging cuts, we developed the Radiology Saves Lives campaign. It included a new website (RadiologySavesLives.org); op-eds in super committee districts; social media posts by members and others; and interaction with like-minded entities such as the Lung Cancer Alliance.

In our survey of 1,000 registered voters, 70% oppose Medicare imaging cuts and 90% believe such cuts will impact early detection of medical conditions. We promoted this poll to national, health policy, and trade media; included the details in all our contact sessions on Capitol Hill; and used the information as one basis for our communications efforts.

We held an RMT featuring our chairman and other prominent radiologists and placed spokespeople in Beltway press and other outlets.

We have been successful. No imaging cuts are in the House or Senate versions of the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act, which sprang largely from the super committee process. And the Diagnostic Imaging Services Access Protection Act would block recent imaging cuts made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Will this effort expand?
As healthcare reform moves forward, there will be many opportunities and challenges facing medical professionals. Our membership is engaged.

We will continue educating lawmakers, patient groups, media, and others not just on the issue of medical imaging cuts, but also on the value of radiologists, radiation oncologists, and medical physicists.

It is vital to make Americans aware of radiology's key role in making and keeping them well.

What are key strategies to educate consumers?
Our polling tells us consumers have strong opinions. More than 80% consider imaging vital to proper treatment and diagnoses of medical conditions. A 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed Americans who have greater access to medical imaging live longer than those who don't.

This is resonating as citizens and lawmakers make tough choices about which aspects of healthcare they deem most crucial. Our consumer outreach is a long-term, grassroots effort that will expand.

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