AMA meeting: Delegates see boosting quality of care as duty
■ A new AMA ethics policy lays out steps physicians should take to make sure patients get the correct treatments.
By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted June 29, 2009
Chicago -- The commitment to provide quality care to patients has long stood as a core tenet of the medical profession, but physicians increasingly have come under scrutiny on this front. Research shows that patients receive only about half of clinically recommended care and finds wide regional variations in medical utilization with little effect on health outcomes.
Government and private payers are stepping up pressure on doctors to improve care. Now the AMA says improving quality is not just a matter of technical competence but also an ethical duty, according to new policy adopted at the Association's Annual Meeting.
Delegates approved a Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs report saying doctors should work to ensure that patients get care that is safe, effective, timely, efficient and equitable.
"This report addresses physicians' ethical obligation to provide quality care," said CEJA member Hilary Fairbrother, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine resident. "This means getting the right care to the right patient at the right time."
According to the new ethics policy, doctors should:
- Keep current with best practices and take part in education, certification and quality improvement activities.
- Communicate effectively with patients, families and other professionals, and coordinate care appropriately.
- Monitor the quality of care they deliver through case review, peer review and other improvement tools.
- Implement quality and performance improvement measures in their daily practices.
In reference committee testimony, Georgia pediatrician Joy A. Maxey, MD, said her state delegation supported the proposal. She argued that the AMA needed to take a strong stance on doctors' unique role in medical quality.
"Physicians are the definers of what constitutes quality when it comes to providing medical care to patients -- not industry, not insurance companies, not government, but physicians and their associated professional organizations," Dr. Maxey said.