Registration is now available for “The future of telemedicine,” the latest in the AMA Advocacy Insights webinar series. The webinar will be held on June 2 at 10:00 a.m. Central and will discuss the latest news in telemedicine.

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The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national public health emergency led the use of telemedicine technologies to skyrocket. Legislators and regulators now have the opportunity to make permanent policy that supports many of these advancements throughout the pandemic and beyond. 

To address this dramatic increase in telemedicine use, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) House of Delegates adopted “The Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine” (PDF) at their Annual Meeting in April, an update to their 2014 guidelines.

The new document provides guidance to state medical boards on the use of telemedicine in the health care setting and can serve as a model policy for the permanent adoption of telemedicine at the state level. It addresses a number of concerns related to the continued implementation of telemedicine, including licensure, equitable access and the appropriate standard of care. 

In this webinar, experts from the FSMB will provide an overview of the updated telemedicine policy. In addition, speakers will discuss current state licensure laws regarding telemedicine and continued solutions that can be implemented moving forward. Register now

For the second year in a row, South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) successfully defeated legislation that would have allowed physician assistants (PAs) to practice independently. Senate Bill 134 (S.B. 134) as introduced would have deleted physician supervision of PAs and only required PAs with less than 1,040 practice hours to have a signed collaborative practice agreement with a physician or another physician assistant with at least 4,000 practice hours. PAs with more than 1,040 practice hours could practice without any physician involvement.

The bill was amended on the Senate floor. As amended, the bill also eliminated physician supervision but increased the length of time in which a PA would need to maintain a signed practice agreement with a physician to 6,240 hours of clinical practice. The amended version also removed the option to allow another PA to serve in this collaborating role.

SDSMA was ready for the fight this year. With only a 45-day legislative session, bills can move fast so SDSMA started preparing at the end of the 2021 session. This included securing a grant from the Scope of Practice Partnership (SOPP) to aid in their efforts, solidifying their physician grassroots network and educating lawmakers about the importance of physician-led care.

SDSMA also organized a number of speakers to testify at the hearing before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in opposition to the bill, including AMA President Gerald Harmon, MD, and SDSMA President Kara Dahl, MD, among others. Finally, SDSMA utilized the SOPP listserv ahead of key votes to amplify their call to action asking physicians to reach out to lawmakers to oppose S.B. 134.   

As a result of these tremendous efforts, S.B. 134 was successfully defeated. This victory is a testament to the power of physicians working together, SOPP in action and SDSMA’s relentless dedication to supporting physician-led care.

With the governor signing H.B. 2429 (PDF) this week, Arizona’s physicians will be able to seek confidential care for health and wellness without fear of having their records subject to discovery, subpoena or public reporting. The Arizona Medical Association (ArMA) worked hand-in-hand with the bill sponsor, Amish Shah, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician, to ensure the bill would directly help physicians who seek care for burnout or wellness-related issues. 

Destigmatizing mental health care for physicians has the potential to save lives, testified ArMA in support of the bill.  

“Addressing the systematic causes of medical professionals’ hesitation to seek timely and appropriate treatment for mental health is a priority for our organization,” expressed ArMA’s president, Jennifer Hartmark-Hill, MD. “H.B. 2429’s passage is a significant milestone in the physician community’s efforts. The protections it offers will help to remove barriers so that our health care colleagues can rightly prioritize their mental well-being as part of overall health. This ArMA-led legislation was one of several initiatives championed by the organization that prioritizes the well-being of our healthcare community.”

“While prioritizing our patient’s health and well-being, physicians have always quietly carried the burdens of stress, anxiety and burnout,” said Representative Amish Shah, MD, sponsor of H.B. 2429. “Far too many have suffered in silence out of fear of the professional stigma that persists around seeking help for mental health. H.B. 2429 takes a decisive step in the right direction to promote mental and behavioral health within our community.” 

The bill “balances the appropriate role of the medical board to protect the public safety for an impaired physician with the public need to encourage physicians to seek help for issues that may be causing high levels of stress that can be successfully addressed through a physician wellness program,” wrote AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD (PDF). 

AMA advocacy in support of the Arizona law is part of a comprehensive campaign to enhance laws promoting confidential care for physicians. Read more (PDF).  

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