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Introducing the TMA LAC ― The Limited Acronym Campaign

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Alphabet soup photo

Physicians swim in an ocean of acronyms and abbreviations. Some are scientific (pH, O2, DNA), and some are clinical (COPD, ESRD, ABG). You went to school for years and years to learn and understand those critical concepts.

The most maddeningly, annoying, and hard-to-remember acronyms have to be the bureaucratic acronyms imposed on you from the desk jockeys in Austin and Washington.

Last week, Editor David Doolittle and I chuckled sadly over these sentences that were poised to appear in Texas Medicine Today

  • You have to submit 2017 data to the CMS QPP by March 31 of this year for MIPS and APMs; and
  • MedPAC is ready to see Congress blow up MIPS just one year after its launch.

Thankfully, we rewrote them to put some standard English in there.

The genesis of this alphabetical nightmare seems to be the growing self-importance of our government agencies and the people who work for them. The bureaucracies themselves and the programs they run all have multi-word, important-sounding names.

In Texas, we no longer have a state Health Department. It’s now the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

I did a little research on the history of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). When President Johnson signed the bill into law, the new programs were administered by the Bureau of Health Insurance. In 1977, it became the much more important sounding Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). In 2001, it transitioned to CMS. I’m not sure of the real distinction among a bureau and an administration and a center, but I can say that Google has no mention of the Bureau of Health Insurance being called “BHI.”

Of course, every time one of these agencies implements (translation = “starts”) a new program, it comes up with a Name Full of Capitalized Words and an accompanying acronym. Unfortunately, none of these alphabet tricks do anything to improve the quality of the project ― or the quality of health care you provide.

All of this is the predicate for a new project here at the Texas Medical Association. I call it the TMA LAC – the Limited Acronym Campaign. The basic premise is this: We won’t use or introduce any acronyms related to the work we do for you simply because they’re easier to type. Our mission is to help Texas physicians overcome the challenges they encounter in the care of patients ― not to make it harder.

The most important reason for the LAC is to avoid forcing you to remember or decipher even more confusing terms and letter combinations. I’m also trying to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of acronym-induced highfalutinitis. 

The first outlawed acronym under the LAC is “CMS” – for county medical society. There’s no reason to conflate the bedrock of TMA’s grassroots membership with a hated federal bureaucracy.

Also, the TMA organizational chart includes the HOD (House of Delegates), COL (Council on Legislation), and TMAA (TMA Alliance). That’s fine shorthand for us to use in house, but we don’t have to impose it on you.

And finally, we have our Programs of Capitalized Words … but I’m nixing the acronyms. Hard Hats for Little Heads can be “Hard Hats” on second reference, but not HHLH. Be Wise ― Immunize can be “Be Wise,” but not BWI. And the Hassle Factor Log can stay just like that; you won’t be reading about the HFL.

In the meantime, we’ll focus our real energies on finding easier ways for you to report the HbA1c levels of your T2D patients to the CMS QPP ― or maybe sign on to the plan to blow up the QPP altogether.

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