New statement outlines ATS positions on research, education, advocacy

The ATS has issued an official statement that outlines the Society’s position on research, training, education, patient care and advocacy. The statement, which appears in the November 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, also makes specific recommendations on how elements of the organization can make these policies a part of new and ongoing projects.

Lee K. Brown, M.D., lead author of the statement and immediate-past chair of the ATS Health Policy Committee, calls the document a “marching order” that seeks to put the Society’s guiding mission, vision and values into operation. “The statement is essentially a plan going forward as to how to put our organizational ideals into practice,” he said.

The statement affirmatively states that an “altruistic concern for patients should ultimately dictate ATS positions and activities” with respect to patient access to care. “The ATS advocates strongly for universal access to care for all of our residents, but in addition the care provided must meet accepted standards for quality. For instance, reliance on emergency departments to provide non-emergency care for uninsured patients would not meet an acceptable standard in terms of continuity of care and adequacy of follow-up,” said Dr. Brown, adding that he expects “a robust but orderly and polite discussion” about the position.

In research, the ATS will strive to encourage membership among translational and basic researchers and foster increased interplay among basic, translational and clinical research efforts. “There is this idea that translational research is unidirectional,” said Dr. Brown. “But there needs to be a cycle: basic research should inform translational research, which in turn informs clinical research, but clinical research also needs to produce information that circles back to provide direction for additional basic studies.”

In training and education, the ATS will continue to promote lifelong learning among physicians and increase its efforts to shape training curricula in basic, translational and clinical programs and now, specifically, outcomes research.

Finally, the statement acknowledges the impending challenges that face healthcare and health-related organizations. “Two of the major priorities for ATS advocacy include healthcare reform with universal access to healthcare and increased funding for health-related research, particularly that which is translational and outcomes-based, through the NIH and other institutions,” said Dr. Brown.

Underlying all of these positions is the singularly important issue of improving outcome measurement and analysis. “In all of these venues — research, training, patient care and advocacy — there needs to be a greater focus on outcomes,” explained Dr. Brown. “Comparative effectiveness and evidence-based outcomes data are crucial for developing standards of care, and we need to advocate for the necessary research.”

The statement includes guidance for improving dissemination and evaluation of ATS documents and guidelines, a move that is hoped will bring with it better implementation and greater efficacy of its guidelines that, ultimately, will improve patients’ well-being and simplify physician practice.

“If this position statement, at the very least, establishes as a standard component of every guidelines project a plan to disseminate the findings and assess their effect on clinical practice and patient outcomes, than I will be satisfied that our work on this document has been a success,” Dr. Brown concluded.

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