While there is little doubt the pandemic has impacted each vascular surgeon and the SVS as a Society in numerous ways, the commitment and dedication of SVS committee, council and task force members to deliver on the mission has remained undaunted. Thanks to outstanding leadership by the Executive Board and Strategic Board, and impeccable stewardship and professional support by our staff, the SVS has not lost a beat, and, if anything, is poised to step on the gas as some semblance of normalcy reappears. Despite incredible challenges in local practice conditions across the country, councils, committees and task forces kept meeting, thinking and producing results for members and patients.
SVS even generated some new committees and task forces during this challenging time, such as the Diversity Committee and the Population Health Task Force—reflective of the new opportunities for change on our horizon. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our SVS leaders, volunteers and staff for their steadfast commitment to our higher mission and cause as a Society. The reports presented (the first part is located here; the second installment is here) show a vibrant, forward-looking Society, positioned to embrace whatever comes.—Ronald L. Dalman, MD, SVS president
Advocating for ‘fair and equitable coverage’ of vascular services
Among the many projects of the SVS Coding and Reimbursement Committee, advocating appropriate coverage for vascular services continues to be a major focus. In 2021, the committee, led by chair Sunita Srivastava, MD, will continue to increase its coverage initiatives, working with government and private payers.
The committee will advocate for fair and equitable coverage of vascular services in a variety of sites of service by review of policies and commitment to upholding the SVS practice guidelines.
Srivastava says: “Through collaborative work with several multidisciplinary professional societies, we aim to provide timely review and response to new coverage determinations, alternate G code proposals and work valuation issues.
“The committee will work closely with vascular specialists to ensure appropriate coding, reimbursement and coverage policies for our members and patients.”—Beth Bales
SVS PAC seeks more contributors
The SVS Political Action Steering Committee (PAC) looks to protect your future and hopes. This year the PAC hopes to have at least 10% of SVS members contributing. The committee has had an unprecedented year, co-chairs Peter H. Connolly, MD, and Mark A. Mattos, MD, point out. Despite the ongoing ravages of COVID on our patients and practices and the new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reimbursement cuts that had been scheduled to begin Jan. 1, only 7% of the SVS membership participated in donations to the PAC.
By doing the simple math, the co-chairs say, that means only 383 individuals out of 5,471 SVS members felt the necessity to donate time and money to push through SVS legislative priorities. “It would seem that our message has fallen on deaf ears. Membership’s inaction to understand and recognize the role of the PAC as our voice in Congress will have devastating consequences on the way we practice medicine,” Connolly and Mattos continue.
“At the beginning of 2021, we need an all-hands-on-deck mentality from SVS members. We all need to take responsibility and take a stand in protecting our specialty by supporting the SVS PAC and its mission. Supporting the PAC is supporting your patients, your practice, your future and our specialty! It is clear CMS is not interested in helping us.”
Connolly and Mattos are optimistic: “The SVS PAC Steering Committee would like to encourage all SVS members to make 2021 a year to remember,” they say, “a year in which we overcome COVID, overturn the CMS Medicare cuts and protect the viability and growth of our specialty. So please join the SVS PAC and donate to help save our future.”— Beth Bales
Council moves SVS into vascular population health vacuum
The Clinical Practice Council, chaired by William Shutze, MD, has numerous ongoing and new projects and initiatives, including the new SVS Population Health Initiative. There are several definitions that might clarify the concept of population health.
One is: “The health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within a group.” Another: “The health of a population as measured by health status indicators and as influenced by social, economic, and physical environments, personal health practices, individual capacity and coping skills, human biology, early childhood development, and health services.” Several factors contributed to the pursuit of this initiative. “It is well recognized that there are racial, social and geographic disparities in healthcare delivery—including for vascular disease,” explains Shutze.
The reimbursement climate is in the middle of a pivot towards value-based reimbursement. There is currently no other entity addressing vascular population health, and the SVS is the appropriate entity to move into this space. The project will describe and delineate vascular health disparities, optimize a value-based care model, and supplement this with education for patients and healthcare providers. The SVS has partnered with the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s department of population science and policy. It will develop a guide and then conduct focus groups with the SVS membership to understand vascular population health challenges and innovations.—Beth Bales
Continuing the cause of the SVS Branding Toolkit
A new SVS Branding Toolkit is the culmination of hard work over the past two years by the Public and Professional Outreach (PPO) Committee, according to campaign spearhead and committee chair Joseph L. Mills, MD. And there’s more to come for 2021.
The vascular surgery branding initiative was identified by SVS members two years ago as one of their highest priorities. The major branding themes developed include “surgery is only part of our story” and the “comprehensive vascular care” that vascular surgeons provide in a longitudinal fashion.
“The well-received Branding Toolkit is the result of these efforts,” says Mills. This toolkit includes individually customizable full videos, video clips, as well as referral and condition-specific flyers. The three fliers currently completed and available for use by members cover abdominal aortic aneurysms, chronic limb-threatening ischemia and diabetic foot ulcers.
Based on the excellent reception, the PPO plans to complete additional condition fliers. These fliers (which can be printed or linked, and are downloadable) will address other major conditions vascular surgeons commonly treat, including carotid disease and stroke, dialysis access, thoracic outlet syndrome, acute and chronic venous disease, claudication and peripheral arterial disease, peripheral aneurysms, and visceral and renal artery occlusive disease. The committee will also organize video clips and virtual interactive sessions to teach SVS members how to use the Branding Toolkit in their individual practices and will actively seek feedback to improve the utility of the toolkit.—Beth Bales
Gaining stronger representation for community practice surgeons
Since its inception, the Community Practice Committee has been a valuable resource for surgeons working in settings that serve local communities. It has provided educational opportunities at Vascular Annual Meetings and, more recently, webinars in order to keep members up-to-date on important topics. As an SVS committee, it has been successful beyond the expectations of the leadership. The SVS aims to make sure that community practice physicians continue to enjoy the full support of the Society (the December cover story of Vascular Specialist focused on some community practice concerns in the setting of the office-based lab).
In 2021, the chair Daniel McDevitt, MD, and the Community Practice Committee will undergo an unprecedented and exciting change, becoming a true section of the Clinical Practice Council. As a section, community practice physicians will enjoy stronger representation in the SVS leadership, including positions on the SVS Board and on the Nominating Committee.
The section will continue to provide educational resources through in-person events at VAM and via webinars and other newer electronic media.
Society members will also be able to specifically identify themselves as members of this Section. As Section membership grows, we will eventually enjoy the benefit of choosing our own leaders.
The SVS has made a strong commitment to community practice surgeons with the conversion of the Committee to a Section. We are looking forward to continued growth and the sincere involvement of our interested community physicians.—Beth Bales and Bryan Kay
*The January 2021 issue of Vascular Specialist, which contained this special feature, went to press prior to the news that the dates for VAM had been moved to August, and that Congress had moved to halt cuts to Medicare.