Getting questions about CMS payment data? Don’t panic — prepare!

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By Elizabeth S. Martin, MD, FAAD

 When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released physician payment data on April 9 the agency invited scrutiny of  physician payment and practice patterns and a flurry of media coverage followed in its wake.

As dermatologists we appreciate the value of data but understand that it must be interpreted and valued in context. As such, this data release and the scrutiny that came with it may be unsettling to many of us. The good news is that most dermatologists run ethical practices that are focused on quality patient care. We have positive stories to tell and an opportunity to put the data into context for patients and media who may ask us questions.

If you do get a media or other inquiries about the data release, don’t panic and don’t react defensively; you can take control of the situation. In an April 14 Member Alert, the Academy offered some helpful tips to manage media inquiries on this topic:

  • Make sure your staff or you are screening calls and take a message from media.
  • If you happen to find yourself on the phone with a reporter, ask the reporter what questions they have for you, tell them you are not available right now but would happy to talk with them — and set up a time in the near future to get back to the reporter.

The alert also advised you to call on the Academy for help with media inquiries. The Academy’s staff is invaluable in providing information and coaching on how to address questions about this particular topic, and I encourage you to reach out to them before you conduct an interview. I can attest from personal experience that support from our AAD media relations team will prepare you to approach any reporter with confidence and tell dermatology’s story effectively!

The Academy’s staff is available to offer you information and coaching on how to address inquiries about this particular topic and you should reach out to them before you conduct an interview.

Some general dos and don’ts to keep in mind for any media situation — or even when getting tough questions from patients, neighbors, orfriends — include:

Do:

  • Determine what your number one key message is and write it down — AAD staff can help you craft an effective message.
  • Demonstrate your credibility as an expert. Prove your point with at least one fact. Use comparisons, statistics, or paint a picture with an anecdote that illustrates your message.
  • Be concise.
  • Tell the truth. 

Don’t:

  • Discuss what you don’t know. Explain only what you know — your experience.
  • Use Jargon. Explain in layman’s terms the concepts you are speaking about.
  • Make statements that need long explanations to beunderstood or that rely on another sentence or two to be clear. This can result in being quoted out of context.
  • Don’t criticize.

If you do get that call from a reporter, send an email to mediarelations@aad.org and a member of the Academy’s media relations team will contact you to discuss your needs.

Related resources:

Dr. Martin is in private practice at Pure Dermatology and Aesthetics in Hoover, Ala., and serves as chair of the AAD Council on Communications.