On the final day of its annual meeting, AMA delegates adopted a new policy designed to improve medical student and physician access to mental health care, according to a press release.
“We are concerned that many physicians and physicians-in-training are dealing with burnout, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and we find it especially concerning that physicians have a higher rate of suicide than the general population,” AMA board member Omar Z. Maniya, MD, said in the release. “We are committed to supporting physicians throughout their career journey to ensure they have more meaningful and rewarding professional experiences and provide the best possible care to their patients.”
According to the release, the policy calls on state medical boards to evaluate a physician’s mental and physical health similarly. The policy also calls for research and identification of the risk factors for and rates of depression, burnout and suicide among medical students and encouragement of medical schools to confidentially obtain and disseminate this information from its students who give their consent.
AMA leaders stated that these actions will help ensure that a previously diagnosed mental health illness is not automatically considered a current impairment to practice, as well as lower the stigma connected to mental health illness that could impact a physician’s ability to obtain a medical license and impede physicians and medical students from receiving care.
Today’s policy vote is the latest in a series of actions AMA has taken to address physician burnout. Most recently, in March, the organization said that it would create the medical school of the future that would, in part, ensure a healthier practice environment for physicians and close the gaps that exist in medical education to improve the health of the nation.
That same month, AMA partnered with health care industry CEOs to declare that physician burnout is becoming a public health crisis that needs to be addressed. And at an AMA meeting in November, it adopted a policy that it said would take seriously the confidentiality of physicians-in-training, and requires state medical boards to avoid asking about an applicant’s history of mental health diagnosis or treatment, focusing solely on present mental illness or addiction issues.
Other medical organizations are also taking steps to combat physician burnout.
AAFP’s initiative, called Physician Health First, is scheduled to begin later this year and will include publishing timely and informative journal articles on topics related to physician well-being on an ongoing basis; creating an enhanced well-being portal on the Academy’s website and developing a web-based well-being planning tool.
And earlier this spring, ACP announced plans to work with external stakeholders, including public and private payers, to identify other means to ease some of the requirements on clinicians and allow them to spend more time on patient care. – by Janel Miller
Healio Family Medicine was unable to determine Maniya’s relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.