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Address of the Executive Vice President

June 13, 2009

AMA Annual Meeting
House of Delegates
Chicago, Ill.

Michael D. Maves, MD, MBA
Executive Vice President and CEO
American Medical Association

Good afternoon. Mister Speaker, Madame President, Members of the Board of the Trustees, thank you for the time today to address our House of Delegates. Thank you as well for the service you have given to this House and to the physicians of America.

To my friends and colleagues in the House, I also want to thank you for your leadership. As delegates, presidents, chairs and executives of your state, county and specialty, you clearly play an important role in our nation's health. Whether you're testifying before a legislative committee, providing expert advice to a public health initiative, or simply counseling a patient on an important medical condition, or a patient's family on how to help prevent disease, you are protecting our nation's health.

And here, at this meeting, where you have come from all 50 states; from our nation's territories and commonwealths; national medical specialty societies; from countries across oceans; and from all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds too varied and diverse to name you have come to help protect our nation's health. On behalf of the AMA, for what you do on a daily basis, we thank you.

There is no question that our country has undergone some incredible changes in the past six months. Financial markets have crashed internationally. More than three million Americans have lost their jobs since we convened at the Interim Meeting. Our nation's unemployment rate continues to rise. It has made our jobs more challenging, but let me assure you that as the AMA drives toward national health system reform, the AMA has not strayed and will not stray from its core mission to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

As many of you know, the AMA did not escape the troubles felt by the nation. As AMA CEO, I was forced earlier this year to eliminate about 100 staff positions; members of the AMA family. We faced an economic scenario that demanded scaling back our workforce.

Dr. Hoven will speak about this in much more detail about our financial picture in Reference Committee F, but since I know that many of you know the men and women whose positions were eliminated, I want you to hear this part from me.

When I saw what happened to our revenues in January, it was a like a kick in the stomach that demanded immediate action. Many of you are small business owners. You know that we don't have the luxury of just hoping and wishing things will get better. We have to act quickly based on economic projections and sound business practices. Hope doesn't keep your doors open any more than it does the AMA's.

We are not General Motors; we are not CitiBank. Congress and President Obama will not rescue us. There are no TARP funds coming to the AMA. We have got to do this ourselves. So, based on our economic projections, my senior staff put together a team to find ways to reduce expenses without losing our ability to do the work physicians and patients need.

At first, we made many decisions unrelated to staff reductions that saved millions of dollars. We reduced travel across the board. We moved to electronic delivery wherever possible. We cut back severely on meetings, consulting, outgoing grants and contributions, and many other areas across the organization. No area was left untouched in this examination; not my office, not the Board, not this House of Delegates, nowhere.

Those actions we've taken where necessary to address serious financial challenges will help us greatly in the months to come.

But as you know, we had to do more than reduce operating expenses. We had to make the hard decision to reduce staff. We tried to be as generous as we could with severance packages. And while it does sting to know that we had to let people go, I am confident that the decisions I made were in the long-term best interests of this organization.

As I stand here today, what I can say is this: We've made the hard decisions that will enable the AMA to pursue its mission aggressively. There could not be a more important time in our nation's history for patients and physicians.

The men and women in Chicago, Washington and New Jersey know the stakes. They know that the time for national reform requires extra effort on their part. I am proud of how they have responded. And I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure that the AMA not only weathers the nation's economic troubles, but that the AMA emerges stronger. That's my honest assessment of where we are today.

While the AMA remains a leader in American medicine, we must do more to assist physicians to cope with a challenging practice environment. Physicians' lives aren't getting any easier, so we have to help make them easier. Patients' conditions aren't getting any less complex, so we need to help physicians make it easier to understand and treat them.

I don't need to remind you that insurers' and government's demands aren't getting any less burdensome, so we have to find ways to provide tools and resources to make those challenges less of a hassle. These are the things physicians have told us they want; tangible tools, practical resources that are ready to use, easy to use, and most important tools and resources that can be trusted.

Here's how we're going to do it.

It's a process because we've taken the time and effort to do the research necessary to understand what physicians want and need; physicians who run a solo practice; physicians in small and large groups; physicians in urban and rural areas; and across the board.

Through this process it became clear that leveraging technology would be the key to helping physicians everywhere get access to the products, services and resources that previously only physicians in mega-practices or large systems could afford or enjoy.

The process led us toward building a Web-based portal.

Okay, I can almost hear the cynical Sids out there saying, Here goes the AMA once again spending a lot of money trying to do what other people do better.

Well, the AMA isn't trying to become a technology company. We're not GE or Google trying to figure out health care. The AMA already gets health care, and now we're working hard to ensure that the focus of health information technology Health IT is on health the health of your patients and the health of your practice.

With the AMA's depth of expertise, it is uniquely positioned to objectively assess the overwhelming array of solutions available to physicians, identify the best in class offerings and make those available to every practice. Just like we work with the nation's political and public health leaders on efforts to help physicians and patients, we're working with the best in class technology companies when it comes to the AMA portal.

We're already working with a huge name in technology Covisint to build the platform. Because of our brand, because of our strength, and because of the respect that America has for the AMA, the nation's leading technology companies are eager to work with us to help America's physicians and patients.

The AMA portal will offer clinical resources such as such asePrescribing from names like Allscripts and Dr. First. It will offer Point-of-Care Clinical References like MDConsult and Harrison's. And it will have Patient Education options from the nation's leading sources, including JAMA, CDC and Medline Plus, to namejust a few.

The AMA portal also will have practice managementreferences like those in the AMA's Appeal that Claim campaign. It will have tools to help navigate the claims process as well as assist with the financial infrastructureof a practice. There will be professional resources around ethics, continuing education and helping physicians enhance their careers. Health alerts such as the H1N1 virus or any future alert about drug medications, for example.

You've heard of Microsoft, right? They are to technology what the AMA is to health. We'll be offering Microsoft's HealthVault through the AMA portal.

We're also working with the Michigan State Medical Society because they're also working on the portal concept, and by working together, we can both be stronger.

In the weeks and months to come, we'll be announcing more big names that will offer their products and services through the portal. The basic fact is this: We're doing what's necessary today to make darned sure we're relevant tomorrow.

We're changing from an organization that relied on yesterday's ideas to one that is doing what's necessary to anticipate and provide for today's and tomorrow's physicians.

Don't just take my word for it. Here is a demo of the AMA portal what it looks like; how it works; how it can help you in your practice. This demo will also run in the exhibit hall, and there will be AMA staff on hand to answer your questions. I encourage you to stop by and take a look at the future of the AMA.

On Sunday, we'll have an educational session about the AMA portal and other Health IT initiatives that will affect the practice of medicine. For 162 years, our AMA has been rising to challenges to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

The challenges we face today may be different an economy in tatters, sweeping health system reform, and bringing technology within reach of every physician but our commitment to our mission remains steadfast, and I know we will succeed because we know that together, we are stronger.

I wish you all the best for the work you are about to undertake at this meeting. Have a great experience.

Thank you.