Ways physicians found to put patients first in 2015
As the end of the year approaches, we continue our look at five top topics that struck a chord with the medical community in 2015. The physician-patient relationship is a sacred bond, but how is it maintained amidst changes in the culture and practice environment? Despite new challenges this year, physicians stated loud and clear that patients remain their top priority. Learn some of the ways physicians stood up for patients and advanced their medical care this year.
Bond unbroken: Patients matter most
At the 2015 AMA Interim Meeting in November, AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, reflected on how physicians have had their time stolen from them and explained how physicians are taking that time back. The patient-physician relationship is crucial to effective treatment, and “providing excellent care to patients is not negotiable,” he said.
In addition to the highly regulated practice environment, several court cases threatened the patient-physician relationship in 2015. The Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies kept vigilant watch over proceedings and advocated on behalf of physicians across the nation, filing amicus briefs in the following cases:
- Patients’ right to privacy was circumvented when the California Medical Board began collecting prescription information without a warrant.
- Physician-patient confidentiality was threatened in a state supreme court case that potentially could raise new obstacles to communication and trust.
- Physicians were enabled to stand up for their mental health patients in court, thanks to a recent U.S. appeals court ruling.
The May issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics, meanwhile, investigated physician-patient relationships by taking a close look at situations when a physician’s efforts to help a patient may cross professional boundaries.
A focus on major public health concerns
Physicians also took steps to address some of the nation’s biggest health concerns, and the AMA offered key resources to help drive important clinical improvements.
In the wake of the nation’s opioid overdose epidemic, the AMA convened the Task Force to Reduce Prescription Opioid Abuse. The task force has offered steps physicians can take to help their patients and resources to help them in these efforts. A panel of physician experts on the subject also gave insight into the epidemic and what must be done to address it.
On the other end of the spectrum, physicians often encounter problems with keeping patients healthy when patients have a hard time sticking to their medication regimen. A module in the STEPS Forward collection, part of the AMA’s Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability initiative, offered ways to improve medication adherence and explained the 8 reasons patients don’t take their medications.
To combat another public health epidemic, the AMA took steps to help physicians prevent type 2 diabetes—a condition so prevalent that one in two American adults has either diabetes or prediabetes. As part of its Improving Health Outcomes initiative, the AMA partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take action with Prevent Diabetes STAT: Screen, Test, Act – Today™. This program helps physicians tap into diabetes prevention and treatment options in their communities or online.
The Improving Health Outcomes initiative also took aim at the nation’s No. 1 cause of death—heart disease. Physicians are now equipped with more tools to help patients get high blood pressure under control to prevent the onset of heart disease, including:
- An infographic that details seven simple tips to get accurate blood pressure readings.
- Three questions to ask patients when measuring blood pressure to achieve more accurate readings.
- The M.A.P. (Measure/Act/Partner) to improve blood pressure control.
The much-anticipated results of the SPRINT trial showed that certain high-risk patients may benefit from a lower blood pressure target.
In addition, as people age 65 and older are becoming a larger percentage of the population, fall-related injuries are a rising public health concern. On National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, the AMA offered three ways to help this specific patient population avoid falls and have a better quality of life.
What’s coming next?
Physicians can expect to see more of these efforts and resources to enhance the patient-physician relationship and promote public health throughout the year ahead.
- The AMA Litigation Center will continue to stand up against challenges to the patient-physician relationship in court.
- On the public health front, the Task Force to Reduce Prescription Opioid Abuse will offer resources and guidance to help physicians combat the opioid epidemic.
- The AMA’s Improving Health Outcomes initiative also will advance national efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease to help patients live longer, healthier lives.
- STEPS Forward will publish additional modules in the new year. Existing offerings include more than 25 modules that cover such practical topics as improving blood pressure control, preventing type 2 diabetes in at-risk patients, promoting medication adherence and providing preventive care through panel management.