AMA Announces New Approach to Physician Mental Health Care

The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted a new policy designed to reduce the stigma of mental health problems among the medical community. The policy aims to give physicians and medical students the ability to seek the care they need for managing burnout, anxiety, depression, and substance-related disorders, without licensure repercussions or career restrictions.

According to AMA Immediate Past President David O. Barbe, MD, “Too many of our physician colleagues are dealing with burnout, depression, and even suicidal thoughts – with physicians facing a higher rate of suicide than the general population.”

As a part of these efforts, the AMA is encouraging state medical licensure boards to ask physicians only about current mental or physical disabilities that could affect the provider’s ability to practice medicine. The recommendation would reduce the most severe consequences for reporting or seeking treatment, such as dismissal or suspension of medical license.

The move is a part of AMA’s Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability Initiative, intended to improve health care by focusing on the well-being of physicians and their practices. It is the latest in a series of policies designed to reduce physician burnout, create healthier educational practice environments, and allow physicians to better take care of themselves and their patients.

Sources: AMA press release, June 13, 2018; AMA News, June 13, 2018.