WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Doctors need to be more active in advocating for public policy, Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

“In medicine, this next decade is going to be transformative,” Rep. Bera, who is an internist, said May 5 during the opening general session. The foundation for enormous change was laid 6 years ago with the Affordable Care Act and refined last year with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). “This next decade will be how we implement and move forward.”

Rep. Bera called on his fellow physicians to play a larger role in shaping the policies.

“We are all busy taking care of our patients,” he said. “We are all busy practicing and teaching the next generation of physicians. But in truth, if we are not engaged with the policy makers, we don’t have a seat at the table.”

In particular, he noted that the focus of the conversation needs to be on keeping the patient at the center of policy changes going forward.

“Certainly while you are in Washington, D.C., you [should] try to stop by and visit your member of Congress,” he recommended. “But when you are back home in your districts, make sure that you are telling [your elected representatives] the stories of your patients, of what happens in the exam room or at the bed side or in the classroom. These are real issues that over the next decade we are going to have to grapple with.”

He said that while there are a lot of bright minds on Capitol Hill who are looking to move the country forward, “unless we bring our patients into that policy, the best policy may not always translate into practice, so that’s where those of us who have a unique perspective have to be part of the discussion.”