AMA Taking 'Steps' to Help America's Doctors

Though its dominant presence in the medical field has faded somewhat, the American Medical Association remains an influential force in the nation's capital. Now, the organization is hoping to use its influence to combat a particularly thorny problem: Physician burnout.

“United we stand; divided we fall.”

—Aesop

My physician-dad was never a member of the American Medical Association (AMA), but I don’t think he thought the organization was unhelpful to doctors. In his day, dad was an ardent defender of any entity—successful or not—that sought to advocate on behalf of physicians.

Still, in a window into the profession’s decline through the years, membership in the nation’s most famous group has fallen from 3 out of 4 medical doctors in the 1950s (doctor glory years, said dad), to only 1 in 5 today. And even with the AMA membership rolls up modestly in recent years, most doctors still think the group lacks clout, let alone meaningful accomplishments.

They’re spending money, that’s for sure. Last year the AMA spent more than $20 million on political lobbying and donations in Washington, DC. And since 1998, the total exceeds $325 million—only the epitome of American big business, the US Chamber of Commerce, has spent more to influence policy in the nation’s capital.

If ever there was a group deserving of strong advocacy, it is physicians. And one of the ways the AMA is seeking to make a comeback in doctor’s hearts and minds (annual dues for a regular physician membership are $420) is by focusing on physician “pain points.” That’s a long list for today’s doctor. Near the top is professional dissatisfaction on an epic scale.

The 168-year-old medical group is targeting overall “physician burnout” with a new initiative called STEPS Forward, which offers 16 modules, each of them addressing specific practice challenges with implementation tips. The practice-based initiative (it’s CME suitable) wants doctors to be able to reach the “Quadruple Aim.” That being:

• Better patient experience

• Better population health

• Lower overall costs

• Improved professional satisfaction

As for the modules (ie, physician pain points) here are a 5 relevant topics—those I keep hearing about from the doctors:

1) EHR Software Selection—“understand practice needs and evaluate readiness for selection and purchase.” Columnist-physician Charles Krauthammer believes this matter is the #1 trouble issue for doctors.

2) Expanded rooming and discharge protocols—“empower staff to make patient visits more meaningful and efficient.” The thing that doctors say they want most: more time with patients.

3) Panel management—“focus on providing proactive, preventive care to improve the health of your patients.” A Stephen Covey effective habit shines on: “Begin with the end in mind.”

4) Creating strong team culture—“evaluate and improve team culture in your practice.” Solving today’s medical riddle, increase care quality and simultaneously lower healthcare delivery costs, requires major collaboration.

5) Synchronized prescription renewal—“save physician and staff time by renewing prescriptions until the next annual visit.” It’s probably easier to list your patients who don’t take an Rx drug. Effective coordination here can make doctor and patient happy.

For more modules visit STEPS Forward.