PHOENIX, Arizona – Presiding for the first time over an annual meeting of the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, of which she has served as president for less than a year, Pamela Bailey has clearly put the organization into high gear and says its membership must tell "the story behind the products" that they make. To do this, the organization has launched several new public policy initiatives to tell the industry's story to Washington – and to the consumers of new medical technology.

She has balanced her professional career with family, raising five children, two still at home. She brings her administrative skills to that role too, serving on the board of her daughter's school and chairing its finance committee. Spare time is at a premium, but she enjoys reading – most recently, a biography of Princess Diana, written by a friend – and, when possible, swimming to keep fit.

Like her life, a HIMA meeting is a whirl of activity, but she took some minutes to pause and assess her first nine months on the job.

"What I don't think I had fully appreciated was the level of commitment and leadership that the board and members provide to this organization," she told BBI. "I knew, coming in, that this is an industry that is extraordinarily exciting, but what is unique to this association has been the collaborative efforts of its members and staff."

She also acknowledges that she and the HIMA board have been in the process of adjusting their sights for a broader focus. The FDA, Bailey said, "is no longer the center of the target." The new, perhaps larger goals are the reform of Medicare and significant impact on all of the reimbursement procedures that can either drive or inhibit medical innovation.

"Until we got into some of the issues over the last year, we had not fully appreciated this," she said. "It's clear that we really need to redouble our efforts to reform Medicare. I would suggest that the situation for this industry in payment [issues] and its impact on access to patients is quite analogous to the whole debate over the Patient's Bill of Rights.

"Doctors and patients must make the decisions concerning what individual therapy is best for the individual patient. And bureaucrats should not get between the patient and the doctor. We must find a way to reform [the Medicare] process so that in the end, the doctor is making the decision with the patient."

As part of that medical gatekeeping combination, patients need to be better informed about the industry, Bailey said. "Coming in, I knew that this was an industry with a story to tell and one that makes products important to patients, but the patients have not always understood the story behind those products."

The Internet, she said, is becoming one of the best ways to reach patients, and so she is expecting big things from the association's new Internet site. Her wish is that it will become the No. 1 web site for patient information, providing a variety of interactive features and links to other health sites. "It will be a place where patients can find out about clinical trials, learn where technologies are available by disease state and where they are available in terms of doctors and medical centers."

Even more broadly, she said HIMA must "get the attention of government policy makers at the highest policy levels concerning the availability of innovation for patients. Too many politicians are still afraid of health care, so they tend to shy away from it unless it's the broadest of issues. We have the responsibility to be even more aggressive in reaching every member of Congress with the message that 'You, too, are a patient and have something at stake here.'"