Keeping a Finger on Members’ Pulse Delivers Long-Term Growth for American Medical Association

AMA managed to achieve record growth during one of the most difficult times in its members’ profession. Getting an accurate pulse on what they want and need are main factors for its enduring progress and success.

The American Medical Association celebrated its 175th anniversary earlier this month—a milestone made even more significant because this year AMA marks 11 consecutive years of membership growth, topping more than 275,000 members.

AMA has remained relevant to members over the long haul by paying attention to what members actually want. For example, AMA has a house of delegates—made up of more than 190 state and specialty medical societies, medical students and residents, and other stakeholders—that guides policy decisions. Most physicians belong to two, three, and sometimes four of those societies.

That means “they’re represented in various ways and that keeps our finger on the pulse of what physicians are thinking and what their priorities are,” said AMA CEO James L. Madara, M.D.

Among the many ways AMA has responded to member needs is by improving its business products, such as the AMA Ed Hub, which provides a centralized location for educational modules, articles, and continuing medical education, and the Physician Innovation Network, a platform that connects physicians with entrepreneurs, allowing doctors to leverage clinical expertise and, as end-users, help design better technology for physicians and patients. The group also expanded its Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) network so it can better engage physicians.  

Member feedback to these efforts has been positive, which is reflected in the numbers. AMA experienced a 35 percent growth from 2011 to 2020. And, during the first year of the pandemic, membership was the greatest it’s been since 1949.

Being There for Members

AMA was also way ahead of the curve in efforts to help physicians manage the demands of the profession long before the pandemic hit. In 2013, it adopted a strategic framework that included developing tools, resources, and training to reduce professional burnout, improve physician wellness, and increase practice sustainability.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the profession sustained an unparalleled level of strain. But it affected some physicians differently. Some had practices that remained empty for a good portion of the pandemic because they were providing elective procedures, while others were converted because the physicians were working outside of their usual functionality because of different demands.

“We think this is now a period where we have to have a recovery plan for physicians,” Madara said.

That recovery will include looking at Medicare, which has decreased reimbursement for physicians over the last decade. And there is a heavy administrative burden involved with getting prior authorizations. Focusing on these areas could diminish the pressure on physicians and will be important for the recovery.

It will be all about going back to “letting doctors be doctors and being with patients,” Madara said. “That’s what satisfies them and that’s why they went into the field.”

Ultimately, reading the room is essential. For AMA, that guided the improved business products, the organization’s digital transformation, JAMA’s expansion, and more. It also helped advance the group’s three strategic arcs, which are preventing chronic disease, improving physician satisfaction, and educating a workforce for the 21st century.

“One thing that ties them together is assessing what the market tells you that it needs and wants,” Madara said. “This is particularly true when you have internal subject matter experts that have lots of ideas. You have to be careful that those ideas are actually what the market wants.”

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Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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