Advocacy Update

Nov. 5, 2021: State Advocacy Update


The multiple phases of the COVID-19 pandemic have in some parts of the country pushed physician stress to crisis levels, as physicians have been desperately needed to care for patients on the front lines.

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Stressors already present in their lives may have been exacerbated, making the need for confidential counseling, wellness services or other care more important than ever. In addition, there continues to be a need for states to ensure that licensing applications and other applications are free from language and other requirements that focus on past diagnoses of mental or physical illness rather than current impairment.

The AMA Advocacy Resource Center has updated an issue brief, “Confidential care to support physician health and wellness,” (PDF) to highlight several different options for physicians seeking care and provides tangible legislative, regulatory and other options for medical societies and other stakeholders to support those efforts. It seeks to further the goals of balancing privacy and confidentiality while also reducing stigma and protecting public health.

The issue brief provides examples of multiple action items, including legislative/regulatory language to help:

  • Ensure that your state’s licensing, credentialing, employment and other related applications do not contain stigmatizing language that inappropriately asks about past diagnoses rather than current impairment.
  • Enact state legislation that provides for safe-haven reporting systems and wellness programs for physicians, medical students and other health care professionals to seek care for burnout and other stressors, as well as mental health issues. Medical societies should consider implementing and/or supporting these programs.
  • Review your state’s Physician Health Program laws and policies to ensure they provide strong confidentiality protections for physicians seeking care.
  • Support—and help implement—provisions in the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.

For more information, please contact the ARC’s Daniel Blaney-Koen and Wes Cleveland.