AMA tackles pain management, mental health, transgender care and more healthcare issues at its annual meeting

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
The AMA acted on a number of healthcare issues at its annual meeting. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

The American Medical Association wrapped up its annual meeting yesterday after tackling a wide range of healthcare issues.

Hundreds of physicians, medical students, residents and fellows attended the meeting in Chicago of the AMA, the largest doctors’ group in the country. The AMA Wire reported on the action and here’s a roundup of some of the major news:

  • Doctors recognized the health threat from new psychoactive substances. The AMA wants to see new strategies and education on these drugs, including synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil responsible for growing numbers of overdose deaths, which are quickly emerging and difficult to track.
     
  • Responding to the problem of physician burnout, doctors adopted new policies aimed at removing the stigma and improving access to mental health care for physicians and medical students. Delegates also want to address how medical licensing boards handle physicians who have sought behavioral health treatment and moved to help educate doctors about the well-being of millions of Americans who are caregivers.
     
  • While reversing the opioid epidemic remains a vital focus, the AMA took action aimed at improving pain care to help the millions who live with chronic pain. That includes expanding access to buprenorphine to treat those with opioid-use disorders. The group is also encouraging the safe storage and disposal of controlled substances.
     
  • Doctors pledged to improve veterans’ access to care. The AMA will continue working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide quality of care to veterans and advocate new funding for the Veterans Choice Program.
     
  • The AMA took action to support transgender patients, backing LGBT-friendly, nondiscriminatory policies.
     
  • The delegates affirmed the AMA’s commitment to patients’ health and well-being, regardless of their immigration status. They also voted to support a ban on immigration or other law-enforcement officials’ use of information contained in patient medical records as part of immigration enforcement actions against people living in the U.S. illegally.
     
  • Leaders of the AMA urged doctors to raise their voices to protect patients at risk of losing healthcare insurance coverage and protest possible cuts to Medicaid expansion. A major concern is how GOP healthcare plans will impact patients, particularly how many may lose health insurance coverage gained under the Affordable Care Act.

    “For our colleagues out there who had not yet realized the importance of advocacy, well, I hope 2017 has been their wake-up call,” said Andrew W. Gurman, M.D., the AMA’s outgoing president reflecting on his year in office. And the group’s new president, family physician David O. Barbe, M.D., said physicians must lead the effort to reshape healthcare and put patients and professionalism first.
     
  • Delegates also adopted policy to encourage physicians to serve on the board of healthcare organizations. A resolution 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.
     
  • With obesity a growing epidemic, delegates targeted sugary drinks and advocated for the availability of healthy foods in hospitals, food banks and food-assistance programs.
     
  • Recognizing problems with out-of-network care, delegates adopted a policy seeking to prevent disruptions in care after patients switch health plans while a course of treatment is in progress.
     
  • The AMA voted Wednesday to oppose physician assistants having their own regulatory boards, according to MedPage Today (reg. req.), but want more study on the licensing for advanced practice registered nurses.