The Annual Membership Meeting is a chance for the leaders of our nearly 5,000 members to hear about these issues directly from leaders in Congress and the administration, as well as policymakers and thought leaders in the media and the health care field.

More importantly, it’s also a chance for these policymakers and thought leaders to hear directly from you, our members, on every one of these crucial issues. No one can better explain the complexities of health care delivery and the impact policy changes would have on your hospital or health system than you. The women and men of America’s hospitals must tell policymakers how decisions made in Washington affect the patients, people and communities back home.

We at the AHA work to tell the hospital story every day, and this message can best be reinforced with your voice. Share your personal experiences from walking the hallways of your hospital. You are the best advocate for what hospitals need to continue to provide the highest-quality level of care that patients expect and deserve.

Hopefully, you already have a strong relationship with your elected representatives and they see you as a trusted source of information on health care. If you are just beginning to build that relationship, the AHA will help you to cultivate it so you can communicate effectively. Policymakers cannot be experts on every detail of the health care system. They count on you to educate them and keep them informed.

Aside from the important goal of communication and advocacy with elected officials, there are more reasons that the AHA Annual Membership Meeting is so indispensable. Our field is being transformed by forces like consumerism, new technologies and chronic care management, and by increased partnerships with external stakeholders and communities. At the meeting, we’ll explore how your peers are managing this new landscape successfully.

You’ll also learn more about what the AHA is doing to help accelerate the progress of health in America. We’re working to preserve and protect adequate health care coverage. We seek to advance innovation in the field, enhance affordability and value, and improve quality and patient safety. And we’re fighting to reduce the regulatory burden on hospitals and health systems.

At this critical moment in the national debate about health care policy, our unity is more important than ever. America’s hospitals and health systems must speak with one voice. Please join me at this year’s AHA Annual Membership Meeting and be at the forefront of advocacy and change in our field.

Rick Pollack is president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.