CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) announced new policies adopted by physician and medical student leaders from all corners of medicine at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. Policies adopted help the AMA drive the future of medicine, remove obstacles that interfere with patient care, and improve the health of the nation.
The AMA’s House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.
The policies adopted by the House of Delegates during the meeting include:
Opposing insurance company financial incentives for patients to switch treatments
Building on their advocacy to protect the patient-physician relationship, delegates adopted policy aimed at curbing the practice of insurance companies providing payments to patients as financial incentives to switch treatments from those recommended by their physicians.
Decisions regarding which biologic drug to use, for example, factor in many variables such as patient’s age, gender, diagnosis, medication, disease severity and comorbid conditions, and the complex journey to finding an effective treatment can be long and challenging. In March 2021, Cigna notified patients that they could be eligible for a $500 pre-paid medical debit card if they agreed to stop taking Cosentyx and switch to a payer-preferred alternative medication – the type of change creates needless risk for patients who are stable and on an effective therapy.
“The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of health care, and decisions about which drug is best for a patient should not be made based on financial incentives offered by insurance companies,” said AMA Trustee Ilse R. Levin, D.O., M.P.H. “Particularly at a time of economic uncertainty and during a public health emergency, payers should not be advancing strategies that prey upon financial instability and jeopardize patient health.”
The new AMA policy opposes such financial incentives and encourages state and federal regulators to prohibit and/or discourage such policies.
AMA urges crackdown on medical and public health misinformation by social media companies
On the heels of lengthy campaigns dedicated to bolstering vaccine confidence and advocating for science and evidence in combatting COVID-19, the AMA today adopted policy urging social media companies to further strengthen their content moderation policies related to medical and public health misinformation.
As discussed during the meeting, there are numerous instances of dangerous medical misinformation, including debunked links between the MMR vaccine and autism, studies that show more than half of health articles posted online are deemed “problematic,” and an analysis of YouTube videos about COVID-19 that showed 25 percent of topic videos contain misleading information. Physicians at the meeting noted that they are spending an increasing amount of time addressing misinformation with patients.
“With more and more patients relying on social media for information – including medical information – dangerous misinformation about vaccines and public health issues poses a serious risk to patient health,” said AMA Trustee Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, M.D. “We strongly urge social media companies to further bolster their content moderation of medical and public health information, including enhanced content monitoring, augmentation of recommendation engines focused on false information, and stronger integration of verified health information.”
Ensuring well-fitted and adequate supply of PPE for health care personnel
With personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by the entire health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that health care personnel have access to well-fitted PPE to protect themselves and their patients from exposure to infectious disease. Current “unisex” PPE is designed to fit the face and body shape of males of European descent and does not adequately reflect the diversity of actual body types, particularly women and some minority groups. The AMA’s new policy encourages the diversification of PPE design to better fit all body types, as well as cultural expressions and practices among health care personnel.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, studies reported health care personnel who developed pressure ulcers from attempting to form a seal with their masks and some who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were also found to have improperly fitted masks. By providing better fitting PPE, we can protect and preserve critically important health care personnel so they can continue to care for patients on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health emergencies,” said AMA Board Member Willie Underwood III, M.D., MSc, M.P.H.
Given that PPE is in higher demand than ever before and will continue to be needed by health care personnel for the foreseeable future, the AMA also adopted policy today encouraging states to maintain medical and personal protective equipment stockpiles sufficient for effective preparedness and to respond to a pandemic or other public health emergency. The new policy also calls on the federal government to meet treaty and trust obligations by adequately sourcing medical and personal protective equipment directly to tribal communities and the Indian Health Service for effective preparedness, as well as to respond to a pandemic or other public health emergency.