Moments matter--and physicians must take them back: AMA president

Troy Parks
Staff Writer
AMA Wire
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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.”

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As a healing profession, Doctor Stark nails it. Ever since his blog about going to Bemidji, he has shown that he defines what we do as also a caring profession. We must never forget that, and with passion and eloquence he voices what we as doctors are about.
To: AMA Physicians' Grassroots Network, Doug S Bcc: AAPS<br/> <br/> The greatest weapon against the Medical Profession: A pen in the hand of a Doctor used to sign contracts<br/> <br/> Is any one else just sick of all this interference with our relationship with our patients?<br/> <br/> Sadly our profession has mortally compromised our rightful and necessary professionalism by signing contracts to work<br/> at a discount and give away our power, our lives, and our duty to our patients to outside interests whose<br/> primary duty is not to serve the needs of those who used to be our patients. We have become employees, with a job; no longer<br/> Medical Doctors with a profession. We work for someone else besides our patients.<br/> <br/> Shameful. Shameful to be constantly harassed to continuously make accommodations to the dictates of <br/> these powerful others. No philosophic filter regarding right or wrong. No deliberation… just accommodation<br/> that we rationalize as necessary for so many reasons, not the least of which is the preservation of some distortion of our mental health,<br/> avoiding acknowledging a conflicted reality as we give in and go along because what can we do, this is how it is and we have no choice.<br/> Or is it a matter of lack of a sense of conviction, no courage and avoiding the truth?<br/> <br/> More and more and more without end. The immense time, energy, emotion and money dedicated to managing a constantly enlarging, changing and burdensome accommodation to the rule makers ( our Rulers). Does anyone feel any shame… does anyone realize the constant insult we tolerate?<br/> <br/> Douglas A Smith MD MPH
This was of course another excellent example of Steve's leadership and vision, prompted by his "right mindedness" and aided by his eloquence. <br/> <br/> There's an interview by AMA of Pamela Wible after her Nov 18 TEDMED talk about caring for caregivers, which also supports the need for physician satisfaction and congruence with our values as physicians in order to begin to stem the tide of defections and suicides at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <br/> <br/> In the interview, Dr. S references a support program within AMA for physicians but does not give the reference. I hope this gets promoted more widely, as some of the excellent materials on suicide prevention that have been created in the past by Mike Myers, among others, have disappeared from the AMA site. <br/> <br/> In addition, Pamela's Nov 18 TEDMED talk is supposed to be available on a complimentary basis via the AMA website, since AMA was a major sponsor of the event. However, the links from the site do not work and the staff has not yet been able to address this. I hope they will work to correct this false promise quickly. <br/> <br/> Louise B. Andrew MD JD <br/>
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