Legislators are greatly influenced by what they know and what they hear - especially from the people the represent. By communicating with a state legislator or a member of Congress, you can have a profound impact on the government policies that most affect your experience with the specialty.
Your elected officials need to hear from you. They hear from constituents and special interest groups about many diverse issues ranging from education to transportation to foreign policy. They need to hear from physicians that treat people with disabilities and chronic conditions. Do not assume they know all the facts or challenges for these patients in your community. It is incumbent upon you to provide them with the information they need to fully understand and appreciate these challenges.
Remember that you also should communicate with legislators from around your state and not just the elected representative from the district in which you are located. You treat patients from across your state so it is important to communicate not only with your elected representatives but also the elected representatives of the people you treat.
First step – figure out who represents you! http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
The beginning of a new Congress is an ideal time to introduce (or reintroduce) Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation but it is never too late to educate Congress on physiatry.
- Send an email or letter introducing yourself and explaining physiatry. Let the Member know that you are able to answer questions and comment on issues relating to physical medicine and rehabilitation.
- Explain what physiatry is.
- Begin a relationship with your member of Congress.
- Extend an invitation for a visit to your practice/facility.
Keep your legislators informed about your practice and facility.
Find opportunities to send positive articles and information about physical medicine and rehabilitation (e.g., press clips, success stories) at least a few times a year.
Communicate clearly about relevant legislation – do not assume that they know where you stand.
- Communicate if you are for or against a piece of legislation.
- Thank the legislator for supporting any relevant legislation.
Depending on the urgency of the situation, use one of the following methods of communications:
Communication methods receive different priority levels on Capitol Hill. The best way to communicate is in person. It is noted that people cannot go to the Hill every day to discuss issues. The best ways to communicate in order are below. (hint: click for further details):
- In person – in person meetings are highly effective.
- Telephone calls – Phone calls are very effective because they provide an opportunity to talk directly to the staff, which reinforces your relationship with the office.
- Email – Email is particularly effective if you communicate directly through a staff’s individual email address, or if you are mobilizing a large number of people through the legislator’s website.
- Fax – Faxed letters are very effective as they are likely to be given to the legislative staff immediately. Old school but still considered effective.
- Letter writing – Use letters primarily to accompany information packets, articles, etc., because postal mail arrives very slowly to Capitol Hill offices.