Moments matter--and physicians must take them back: AMA president
In an address during Saturday’s opening session of the 2015 AMA Interim Meeting, AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, spoke from the heart as he discussed the current state of health care in our country and insisted that in medicine, moments matter. When more and more moments are stolen from physicians, it is the patient who suffers most—and this cannot stand.
Dr. Stack spoke first of a recent incident that left him thinking about “exactly what is wrong with health care today and exactly” what is needed to “make medicine right again.”
Because of overwhelming Medicaid protocol, Dr. Stack said, he was unable to carve out the amount of time he needed to deliver a diagnosis of terminal cancer to a patient in the way he had wished. A series of frustrating phone calls, interruptions and unnecessary bureaucratic protocols stole precious time he had intended to give his patient.
“It actually makes me sick,” he said, “that I didn’t have time to be the physician I know I am, the partner that patient deserved in his time of need.”
“We simply cannot tolerate this … it is a theft of our time [and] our passion,” Dr. Stack continued. “Providing excellent care to patients is not negotiable.”
Momentum is on our side
Physicians have gained ground on many key health care issues, Dr. Stack said. The AMA boldly opposed the proposed mergers in the health insurance industry because patients deserve options, and physicians and patients alike must have decision-making power when it comes to treatment and timing of care.
Additionally, he pointed out, focusing on what is really important—strengthening the patient-physician relationship—is critical. One way physicians are accomplishing this goal is through the AMA’s Break the Red Tape campaign, in which “thousands of physicians from across the country have shared their stories online or emailed Congress to tell them that the ever-increasing bureaucracy is stealing their time and threatening the quality of care physicians can deliver to their patients,” Dr. Stack said.
The AMA also held two electronic health records (EHR) town hall events this year in Boston and Atlanta to provide a platform from which physicians could deliver their concerns and shine light on what one physician called “the abysmal state of EHR usability.”
Dr. Stack also pointed to significant victories this year, including:
- The AMA and other medical association partners “won the epic battle to repeal Medicare’s fatally flawed and poorly conceived” SGR formula, Dr. Stack pointed out.
- Through the AMA, physicians “smoothed the transition to the new ICD-10 code set by achieving a grace period, an ombudsman assigned to triage issues as they arise and a pledge from CMS for a period of leniency,” Dr. Stack said.
But there is still much to do for the state of public health in our country, Dr. Stack reminded physicians at the meeting. Prescription opioid abuse and overdose, for instance, is now considered the largest public health crisis in our country since the AIDS epidemic.
The AMA convened a task force with the American Osteopathic Association, the American Dental Association and 24 physician organizations to “combat the growing … crisis of opioid dependency and abuse,” he said. With the support of the White House, the AMA has pressed for greater funding and improvements to prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) that will help physicians in the fight to curb the epidemic.
“Physicians must be leaders,” Dr. Stack said. “We must turn the tide for people who currently suffer and for those who are at risk in the future.”