New focus on physician stress New focus on physician stress For physicians and other health professionals, the pandemic also has brought renewed emphasis on stress reduction and other aspects of behavioral well-being for themselves, their coworkers and their patients. This is a welcome change from the previous approach that overvalued physical stamina and mental toughness, and normalized levels of fatigue and anxiety that would normally induce incapacity.
Related Coverage As detailed in the AMA Telehealth Implementation Playbook, this approach is an incredibly powerful tool in caring for patients with various forms of chronic disease, the treatment of which absorbs nearly 90% of U.S. health care spending. In addition, telehealth is invaluable in preventive care as well as in treating acute conditions like COVID-19, particularly as it keeps patients from exposing others. Although potential of telehealth is transformative, significant work remains to ensure all who can benefit from it can access it.
Patients, doctors like telehealth. Here’s what should come next. For example, the acceleration of telehealth and remote patient care since March 2020 has been a lifeline for patients with chronic conditions, and for independent physician practices crippled by the economic storm of COVID-19. The advantages that telehealth brings to physicians’ ability to deliver care, and the way patients experience it, has the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. Moving forward, we will need physician leaders, government, public health agencies and private health systems working collaboratively to ensure that telehealth adoption continues in an equitable manner that also protects patients’ privacy.
Creating problem-solvers for tomorrow Medical education also stands to benefit from pandemic-induced changes as medical students adapt to new models of learning, such as a greater emphasis on incorporating telemedicine principles as a core element of a clinical curriculum. The AMA has assembled a broad array of resources to help medical students, residents and faculty members manage pandemic-related disruptions, and adopt innovations that will benefit them and their patients going forward. Creating problem-solvers for tomorrow
Physicians often hesitate to obtain treatment for such issues partly because they fear that doing so might jeopardize their medical licenses and careers. Long-standing AMA policy encourages state licensing boards and other credentialing bodies to ensure confidentiality when physicians seek out counseling or other services to address their feelings of burnout, career fatigue, stress or depression. In short, COVID-19 brought mental health out of the shadows and into the forefront of everyday conversations, where it rightfully belongs. We know that large segments of the population dealing with behavioral health issues receive no treatment whatsoever, and that others who seek it out experience inadequate levels of care.
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- Advances in telehealth and the focus on mental health are changes worth keeping
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