No doctor should hesitate to participate in a Physician Wellness Program because of the risk of discoverability and judgement down the road.
- What if the state medical board finds out?
- What if my specialty society or the insurance companies that are our payors find out?
These should never be questions you worry about before you reach out for support. With burnout rates of 40%+ and over 400 physician suicides a year in the USA alone, we must do all we can to remove barriers to doctors asking for and receiving support in their time of need.
Legislation to provide immunity to Wellness Program participants is an important piece of this effort.
Unfortunately, here in the USA, we are a nation of states. This immunity from discoverability will have to come via state laws.
Good News ...
there appears to be an immunity support wave building in state legislatures around the country. It is still early and now the count is three!
Last year Virginia went first.
The Medical Society of Virginia championed landmark legislation to protect struggling doctors who ask for help. Here is the full text of the law.
Already this year, Indiana and South Dakota have followed suit:
Indiana Senate Enrolled Act No. 365 has among its protections that “all verbal communication belonging to or performed as part of a wellness program are confidential and privileged and may not be used in any administrative or judicial proceeding.”
South Dakota’s House Bill 1179 also was enacted this year and contains similar confidentiality protections. Provisions include protection that “any record of a person's participation in a physician wellness program is confidential and not subject to discovery, subpoena or a reporting requirement to the applicable board,” unless the person voluntarily agrees to release the information or there is evidence of a crime or unprofessional conduct.
This is an important development in the battle against Physician Burnout
Without this immunity, many physicians hesitate to ask for help when they most need it. This perception of risk/vulnerability is a huge barrier to many who are burned out.
Who is working on a law granting Federal Protection to physician wellness programs.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT:
What do you think of this legislation?
What is your state doing, if anything?
Do you know of any individual or organization working on Federal protection?