AMA President-Elect: Physicians can shape the future of health care

Steven J. Stack, MD: ‘Dermatology is at the forefront of telehealth and telemedicine.'

Steven J. Stack, MD: ‘Dermatology is at the forefront of telehealth and telemedicine.’

Changes to the U.S. health care system have left many physicians feeling overwhelmed, but they should push back against those feelings and instead lead the way to the establishment of a better, more sustainable, and effective system, said Steven J. Stack, MD, president-elect of the American Medical Association.

“Physicians have a unique opportunity to shape the future of health care in this country. As those on the front lines, physicians delivering care and responding to patient needs know what works and what needs to improve,” Dr. Stack said. “It is my belief that we can dramatically improve the physician practice environment if we shape more effective delivery models, advocate for regulatory relief, and improve things like electronic health records.”

Dr. Stack will become AMA president in June, and at age 43 will be its youngest president in 100 years. He shared his views on the evolving role of physicians — and dermatologists — in his address as a guest speaker at Sunday’s Plenary and in a separate interview.

“I believe that together we — as a profession and the rest of society — can accelerate innovation in medical education so that future physicians are poised for success in a highly integrated, technology-enabled health care system,” Dr. Stack said. “Together, we can improve outcomes for physicians, for medical students, and hundreds of millions of patients in the United States.”

But the AAD and dermatologists can play a key role in specific areas of the health system, such as telemedicine and representing physicians in smaller, independent practices, he said.

“Dermatology is at the forefront of telehealth and telemedicine,” Dr. Stack said. “It faces both opportunities and challenges with patients texting or emailing photographs of their rashes and wanting to get answers and treatment in a way that really challenges the in-person, traditional interaction between a physician-dermatologist and a patient.

“Dermatology also still has a relatively large majority of its overall physicians in independent private practice, in either solo practices or small group, single-specialty practices. A major focus of the work of the AMA is to find ways to provide knowledge, tools, and resources to physicians so they can be successful in the independent practice of medicine, and to try to partner with those societies who know those doctors even more intimately.”

Still, it is important that physicians recognize the changing dynamics of health care.

“We can’t shelter our physicians from economic realities where they need to have access to resources and partner with the health systems to improve quality and safety, and lower cost over time,” Dr. Stack said. “What we can do is show them how they can preserve their independence or autonomy in ways they value and appreciate.

“I think this pace of change is inevitable. It is not unique to medicine and is society-wide. This is just part of the ongoing evolution of society, and health care is a piece of that — a big piece economically, but a piece of that. I think we can find a bright new horizon and steer towards it, and help physicians thrive, and not just get by.”

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