AMA says attracting more physicians the way to fix VA shortage


The way to solve the physician shortage at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities is by attracting more physicians, not giving more authority to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), the American Medical Association (AMA) said this week.

The AMA, which had come out in opposition to the proposed plan from the VA to let APRNs work independently to solve its physician shortage, said that solution shortchanges veterans’ healthcare, according to a Medscape report. The AMA House of Delegates said the VA needs to attract more physicians to its system with more generous loan forgiveness programs, including immediate forgiveness of doctors’ medical school debt.

"We want physician-led teams to take care of our vets," AMA delegate David Rosman, M.D., a radiologist from suburban Boston, told Medscape. The AMA also passed a resolution for the association to work with the VA to reduce the red tape hindering non-VA physicians from volunteering their time in its facilities, a process now made difficult by red tape.

The AMA, the country’s top physicians’ organization, held its annual meeting in Chicago this week and took stands on a number of healthcare issues. They include policies to accomplish the following:

  • Discourage the growing use of nootropics, or so-called “smart drugs” because of safety concerns, according to the AMA Wire. Nootropics include a variety of prescription drugs that healthy individuals are taking to enhance cognitive ability. 
  • Provide for routine lead testing in schools and registered day care centers in the wake of water problems in Flint, Michigan that led to widespread lead exposure in children, according to The Detroit News. The group also urged the elimination of lead-based pipes in the nation’s water systems.
  • Recommend that middle and high school classes not start until 8:30 a.m. in order to help ease sleep deprivation among teens, according to HealthDay. The policy also states doctors need to educate parents, teachers, school officials and others about the importance of sleep for teens’ physical and mental health.
  • Support government efforts to implement a Health IT Safety Center to minimize electronic health record-related patient safety risks, according to AMA Wire.
  • Ensure payment parity for telemedicine services by calling on private health insurers to cover telemedicine-provided services that are comparable with in-person services and not limit coverage to services provided by select corporate telemedicine providers.
  • Improve maintenance of certification and osteopathic continuous certification, to address physician concerns about cost effectiveness and relevance to practice.
  • Urge equal healthcare access and payment for treatment of eating disorders, as many payers exclude eating disorders from mental health parity.
  • Improve greater physician education on the effective use of a once-a-day HIV prevention option, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, to reduce the risk of sexual HIV acquisition in high-risk individuals.
  • Recognize the public health benefits of paid sick leave, as well as unpaid sick leave for employees to care for themselves or a family member.
  • Urge Congress to provide immediate funding to help combat the Zika virus.
  • Encourage private and public health plans to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program as a covered benefit for beneficiaries to help more people with prediabetes access the program.
  • Address factors critical to reversing the opioid epidemic, including support for prescription drug monitoring programs, access to naloxone, and addiction medicine as a sub-specialty.
  • Ensure new payment models are physician-led to allow for resources and flexibility needed to implement their own solutions for improving care for patients.

- check out the AMA Wire articles
- read the Medscape article
- see The Detroit News article
- find the HealthDay report