The American Medical Association didn’t wait for members to tell them what they needed to avoid burnout and improve their careers. Instead, AMA conducted proactive research that revealed a path to effective solutions that will significantly improve each member’s professional journey.
The American Medical Association recently announced it had achieved 10 consecutive years of membership growth, with a 35 percent cumulative increase in dues-paying members during that time. It is the largest year-over-year membership increase in 70 years, which would be impressive under any circumstances.
It is even more so given that AMA’s success endured during an extraordinarily challenging period in the medical profession caused by a global pandemic. AMA was an ally to its members before COVID-19, and significantly more so during the pandemic when members needed the group more than ever.
There were many reasons for AMA’s success, but one aspect was revealing research that gave the group meaningful data on what members found satisfying and motivating about the medical profession—and what was hindering their professional success. Those insights helped AMA to be more agile, focused, and responsive to member needs.
One of AMA’s three strategic arcs that contributed to its membership success, according to James L. Madara, M.D., AMA’s CEO and executive vice president, was improving physician satisfaction by removing obstacles that interfere with patient care. The others include reimagining medical education and preventing chronic disease.
In tackling the first objective, waiting for members to tell them what was wrong was not going to cut it. “Sometimes organizations with internal subject matter experts make the mistake of thinking that subject matter experts, because they are so expert, know what the market must need in their area, but it’s not always the case,” Madara said. “You have to go out and see what the market needs.”
AMA’s multipronged research delved deeper into finding out exactly what the barriers to improving patient care were for physicians. One study found that a primary professional satisfier and intrinsic motivator was how much time physicians spend face-to-face with patients. The dissatisfiers were things that impeded those interactions. Additional research revealed that for every hour a physician spent with a patient, they spent two hours on administrative tasks like data entry.
“Not surprisingly, there was some burnout,” Madara said.
Understanding what was driving member satisfaction—and dissatisfaction—allowed the group to laser in on ways to effectively begin to remove those obstacles, such as simplifying complicated administrative documentation, decreasing prior authorizations, and giving physicians tools they needed to incorporate telehealth into their practices.
While there was not one factor that drove AMA’s growth in membership, Madara said the value of membership that spurred AMA’s most recent success was “making the mission statement seem like a reality for the organization.” Each of the strategic arcs—removing barriers, reimagining medical education, and preventing chronic disease—all directly support AMA’s mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health, Madara said.
Madara is optimistic AMA’s membership growth will continue. He credits member engagement with AMA’s journals, websites, and other resources as another key to membership success.
“The tools we’ve developed that have attracted people are getting better and richer each year,” he said.