As part of its commitment to physicians, the AMA is actively involved in education and advocacy efforts that highlight, mitigate and address the physician burnout crisis that has emerged within the health care system. Almost 63% of physicians reported symptoms of burnout at the end of 2021, highlighting the need for large-scale change.
AMA’s Position and Advocacy Efforts
The AMA believes that reducing burnout is fundamental to ensuring high-quality patient care and a sustainable health system, which is why the AMA has taken such an active role in the following:
Assessing the underlying drivers of burnout
Understanding clinicians’ unique well-being challenges
Reducing stress drivers
Proactively initiating programs and infrastructure that support and promote well-being
Central to these activities is the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians, which includes:
Fighting for the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act
Establishing a national campaign to help states enact physician confidentiality laws
Advocating for new state laws that protect physicians who seek care from punitive actions
Enabling health care organizations to improve the well-being of their clinicians
Shaping more than 40 policies and securing regulatory victories to reduce documentation burdens
Empowering and propelling research to reduce physician burnout
Equipping physicians and health care organizations with real-world solutions to current challenges
Read the full article: Advocacy in action: Reducing physician burnout
Credentialing Change Implementation
A new change to the credentialing application at Henry Ford Health is making waves across the industry. Led by Henry Ford Medical Group Chief Clinical Wellness Officer and Psychiatrist Lisa MacLean, MD, the goal of the change is to remove the barriers that deter physicians from getting the mental health care they need.
Why was the change necessary? Dr. MacLean argues that the original question, which asked physicians to disclose if they’ve ever received mental health care, didn’t evaluate future competency.
With the change, the application focuses on current impairment by asking: “Are you diagnosed with or receiving treatment for any condition (physical, mental, emotional or substance-dependence related) that currently impairs your ability to practice medicine?”
In a recent podcast hosted by AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger, Dr. MacLean talked about how health systems can stop the stigma associated with physicians seeking help for mental health issues. Here are some highlights from that conversation:
Why are physicians reluctant to seek care?
“Some physicians feel vulnerable seeking care or may feel that others will see them as weak if they seek care. And society, I think, has long held this belief that doctors have to be all knowing, all present and always in a good mood. But underneath those expectations, doctors are like everyone else. We are human. This means we can also struggle with any disease that touches humans.”
Dr. MacLean pointed out the concern physicians have about getting treatment and later having to disclose it on a credentialing document. This could prevent them from practicing medicine.
How Have Physicians Responded to the Credentialing Question Change at Henry Ford?
Dr. MacLean was instrumental in changing the credentialing application question pertaining to mental health care services at Henry Ford Health. When asked about the outcome of that change, she responded:
“It's been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it has opened really great discussion about other things maybe we need to change to protect the privacy of physicians.”
Dr. MacLean’s Wellness Task Force has been examining other situations where employees within the organization knew detailed information about physicians’ personal medical care, spurring additional changes. She also pointed out that, as of November 2022, only 19 states have aligned their licensing questionnaires to the one Henry Ford is using. This means an opportunity for widespread change – even at a national level.
As other organizations look at making their own changes, Dr. MacLean recommends using “Remove Intrusive Mental Health Questions from Licensure and Credentialing Applications: A Toolkit to Audit, Change, and Communicate” developed by the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation as a resource.
Read the full article: Key credentialing change has big upside for physician well-being
Listen to the podcast: Removing mental health stigma in medical licensing and physician credentialing