Scope of Practice

Physicians encouraged to take seat at table on health care boards

Robert Nagler Miller , Contributing News Writer

Noting that health care-related goods and services account for almost 20 percent of this country’s gross domestic product, delegates to the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting in Chicago adopted policy to encourage and promote physicians serving on the boards of health care organizations.

Specifically, the House of Delegates adopted a resolution that calls for increasing physicians’ participation on governance boards of nonprofits, for-profit corporations and other organizations and entities whose products and services relate to consumers’ health and well-being. Delegates directed the AMA to give physicians, the public and health care organizations information on the positive impact of physician leadership.

“Physicians are uniquely positioned to serve as leaders in the exam room and the board room,” said AMA Board of Trustees member Georgia A. Tuttle, MD. “Diverse medical training, experience and knowledge provides physicians with a distinctive appreciation of the breadth of health issues that enables them to synthesize diverse professional perspectives and facilitate patient-centered decision-making.”

In pushing for greater involvement on such boards, the resolution’s authors cited numerous studies that conclude there is “significant evidence that the participation of physicians in the governance of many health care organizations is associated with higher business performance, clinical quality and social outcomes.”

The resolution adds that “physicians have special expertise with complex clinical outcomes data, can add to a board’s cognitive diversity, have a reputation for altruism and can offer special competitive insights.”

One highly significant byproduct of physicians’ taking on a greater leadership role on the boards of health care organizations could be a bigger influence on the systemic factors that contribute to physician burnout. As was suggested in a recent call to action from prominent health care CEOs, health care executives play a key role in finding solutions to this crisis. Because physicians themselves are intimately acquainted with the phenomenon, they can readily assume leadership positions in efforts to mitigate it.

“We must make both the prevention of burnout and the restoration of the joy of a career in medicine core priorities and address the issue with the same urgent methods we would use to solve any other important business problem,” AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, and other health care leaders wrote on the Health Affairs blog.

Read more news coverage from the 2017 AMA Annual Meeting.