State Leadership Conference

Using technology to enhance the effectiveness of psychology's agenda. Educating about the importance of political giving for accessing legislators. Developing Internet-based practice management tools for psychology practitioners. Those are among the many ways APA's new companion practice management organization--known as the APA Practice Organization--will work to increase the amount and type of advocacy it does on behalf of practitioner interests.

The APA Practice Organization, launched in January to allow APA to expand the advocacy it can do under Internal Revenue Service rules, was both the sponsor and theme of this year's State Leadership Conference (SLC), March 10-13, held in Washington, D.C. The yearly meeting for leaders of state psychological associations featured presentations from key political leaders, visits to Capitol Hill, technical guidance sessions and overview of issues facing psychology.

In his keynote address, Russ Newman, PhD, JD, director of the Practice Organization, explained the scope and goals of the new companion organization. The organization will enhance the Practice Directorate's efforts because it is not limited in the amount it can spend on lobbying, advocacy, marketing and promotion on behalf of practitioners' interests. Newman said the organization will use new information technologies to enhance the effectiveness of the legislative, legal, marketplace and public education agendas of the Practice Directorate.

Indeed, he said, it is the Internet and information technology "that will make it possible for the Practice Organization to work on projects that require the simultaneous participation of virtually every program area in APA's Practice Directorate along with technical consultants on both coasts in this country. It is the Internet that enables us to hear from more of you in less time than was ever possible before."

For those purposes and others, Newman said, "We are building an infrastructure for the companion organization that combines information with network organizational structures to increase our efficiency, our flexibility and ultimately our productivity."

And to better understand what practitioners need and want from those efforts, said Newman, the directorate has begun an extensive process of research, including a recent online poll of 1,500 APA practitioner members. The poll found that practitioners are particularly interested in technology use for practice management--the administrative process and support of psychological practice, including regulatory compliance, and financial transactions.

The research poll also showed practitioners are interested in the Internet's potential to value for "practice enhancement," or the support and development of actual psychological work.

The APA Practice Organization is now drafting the blueprint necessary to build a Web-based portal that will enable it to provide an array of tools for practitioners via the Internet. "Not coincidentally," said Newman, "it will allow us to conduct (c)(6) activities on the Internet, such as discussion of advocacy topics and political giving issues that we are not legally permitted to do through the APA Web site."

The Practice Organization's focus is in sync with the need for psychology to work with the world that technology is creating, Newman said.

"We must monitor the developing technologies. We must learn to deal with developing technologies. We must use the developing technologies to our best advantage. And, most of all, we must influence the development and application of those technologies as they become integrated into the health-care system."

In a panel discussion session after Newman's address, moderated by Dan Abrahamson, PhD, director of professional affairs for the Connecticut Psychological Association, Sandra Shullman, PhD, one of the panelists, agreed, saying psychology is moving in the right direction in technology use, but cautioned that "we are late."

"I see a lot of interesting psychological and sociological research being done in organizations by people who are not necessarily psychologists and sociologists because the marketplace drives the need to understand information about how people will behave," said Shullman, who is a psychologist and a managing director of Executive Development Group.

Other panelists included Leigh Jerome, PhD, a clinical psychologist and research scientist with Pacific e-Health Innovation Center at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu and Elizabeth Bailey, a strategic marketing and communication consultant.

It's important for psychologists, said Newman, to understand how the technology "needs to be integrated into the existing ways and organization and operations," of what practitioners do.