United Rheumatology June update!

From Max Hamburger MD
United Rheumatology LLC President                     
June 1, 2016
Brief Status Update

At the Congress of Clinical Rheumatology, United Rheumatology celebrated a momentous event: we now are over two hundred active members! I want to thank every current member, as much of our growth recently has been through word of mouth referral and expression of satisfaction. Some of you may also have seen our notice in The Rheumatologist- this was followed by a significant increase in calls and emails, and we will repeat that ad periodically as a result.
We are actively working on a number of initiatives:
1) CMS ASP “Experiment” United Rheumatology cooperated actively with CSRO, and with ACR by forwarding requested surveys to all our members, and you actively responded. We also submitted a comment on the proposed rule changes.  Other sub-specialties are actively engaged on this front as well. If further input from UR is warranted, it will be undertaken. We are in active communication with leadership at CSRO in particular for updates. This particular issue led to the appointment of Howard Blumstein MD as Chair of United Rheumatology’s Government Affairs Subcommittee. We need members for this subcommittee so if you have an interest in being a United Rheumatology Advocate, please let me know. Finally, we are exploring the engagement of a lobbying firm to enable the most effective actions by United Rheumatology in the future.
2) Membership growth.  With good travel weather for the next six months, we are planning to have as many as 25 membership growth meetings in cities and communities across the country. We seek to return to communities where we already have membership, as well as conducting meetings in areas where as yet we have not established a presence. We encourage you to help us with this undertaking. Positive comment from satisfied members is the best way to attract people to a dinner, and we will benefit from your help in local growth.  We have had excellent attendance in areas where we already have members (20 in Richmond VA recently) but establishing a base in areas where we have no members is more of a challenge. We need to grow in Arizona, Colorado, Northern California, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and New Mexico. Please think of rheumatologists in those states whom you personally know, and contact them to introduce them to United Rheumatology. Once you have established a receptive basis for a follow up call, please let me know and we will take it from there. If you want to be involved as a co-host at a meeting let me know.  Dick Pedersen and Amanda Byrnes are heading up our membership growth drive. Their contact information is listed at the end of this email. They are your initial point of contact if you can help us with a meeting in your area.
3) Guidelines.  The Medical Policy Committee welcomes Michelle Petri to active status, and Josef Smolen and Daniel Aletaha as consultants.  The MPC has final drafts of the RA, PSA, AS/SpA, osteoporosis and knee OA guidelines. The final edits will be accomplished at June and August meetings, and then posted on the website. We will then be asking the entire United Rheumatology Membership for their input and response. To facilitate this in an organized way, we will randomly assign subgroups of members to each guideline and ask for your read and critique.We will then move forward with gout, musculoskeletal ultrasound, SLE, and biosimilars guidelines and position papers. While SLE in particular will present a unique array of challenges, the threat to access to quinacrine led the MPC to activate the SLE guidelines team sooner than originally planned. These guidelines are our expression of expertise to the payers. They will be copyrighted, and we will then initiate the first wave of contacts with payers. To assist in the work with payers, United Rheumatology is interviewing consultants with national experience working with payers on population health, risk, bundled care and fee for service contracting. When a final consultant is chosen, we will announce the choice to the membership. We have received inquiries from Rheumatology State Societies who are seeking to engage payers in conversations. Repeatedly, the payers request guidelines, and our copyrighted guidelines are perfect for this undertaking. If your state society is engaged in payer meetings and the UR guidelines would be an important component, feel encouraged to ask for our participation.
4) Governance.  United has formally adopted a charter for the Medical Policy Committee, and for a Nominating subcommittee to suggest new committee members as new subcommittees are activated, and replacements for committee members after the end of their terms. If you have an interest in working on guidelines, or playing a role in actively addressing payer relationships and other aspects of United’s missions, feel encouraged to self-nominate. United is also building its Board of Directors. Currently, Robin Dore MD, Andy Laster MD, Chris Kane, Jon Glaudemans, Douglas Tardio, and I are on the Board. Another rheumatologist and additional Board members from the health care world who are not physicians will be added. Most of you have met Doug on at least one occasion. Chris Kane was part of the original consultant adviser team from Manatt that helped us build the business plan for United, and is now CEO for a large Dermatology Supergroup in the southwest. Jon Glaudemans is with Manatt Health Solutions, the consultant firm that helped us launch UR. We will formally adopt governance guidelines that will address how the staff and leadership report to the Board, the role of the Board, and how the Board and leadership report to the membership.
5. We are in active conversations with two manufacturers about direct to manufacturer agreements as we have already in place with two others.  Details will be disseminated as soon as the agreements are consummated. We anticipate these will launch in Q3.
6. Data Commercialization: This will be the subject of a follow up newsletter within the next week. We have a proposal for an agreement with one major biotech company in place, and a second nearing completion. Two others are also in active discussion, having cleared compliance reviews. Thus, the commercialization opportunity will become an active value from United Rheumatology in partnership with MDI. Consistent charting of a short list of variables will be essential, in a manner compliant with our data extraction requirements. Stay tuned for more news on this exciting opportunity.

Max Hamburger
Fran Hamburger
Dick Pedersen

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