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Physician health programs focus on individual well-being, quality of patient care, journal article says

Release Date: November 1, 2012
Contact: Lisa Hildebrand - 608.442.3765 lisa.hildebrand@wismed.org

Madison, Wis. – The majority of physicians with potentially impairing illnesses who participate in a physician health program (PHP) return to a productive career and a satisfying personal and family life, according to a review article in the current issue of WMJ (vol. 111, no. 5). The article provides an overview of PHPs in Wisconsin and nearby states and offers recommendations for a process that might lead to a better work environment, an increased sense of connection among physicians and colleagues and their families.

“When a professional with a potentially impairing illness becomes involved with a PHP and no harm to the public has been identified, he or she is ideally enrolled in an alternative pathway to professional discipline,” the authors wrote. “PHPs provide the availability of a non-disciplinary alternative with rehabilitation and accountability being emphasized, facilitated and carefully documented over time.”

As of 2011, Wisconsin was one of only five states that did not have statewide physician health programs that were members of the Federation of State Physician Health Programs. Instead, health care organizations in Wisconsin must rely largely on their own resources, which are limited in scope and effectiveness, according to the report’s authors. One example of a health care facility attempting to meet the needs of physician well-being is the Physician Health Committee (PHC) at Ministry St. Joseph’s Hospital and Marshfield Clinic.

Rather than providing assessment or treatment, the PHC links physicians to specific resources for evaluation and treatment options. It also provides advocacy and support for physicians with either a diagnosable health care condition or with workplace stress, burnout, family stress or manifestations of disruptive/abusive behavior.

“Addressing physician health and wellness is now recognized as an important factor in the sustainability of physician practices and in the quality of patient care,” the authors wrote. “What is needed in Wisconsin is a statewide program that physicians and licensees can trust to place their needs as individuals on a level comparable to the needs of the state in assuring physician fitness to practice.”

Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. The peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.

All articles published in WMJ represent the views of the authors, for which neither WMJ nor the Wisconsin Medical Society take responsibility, unless clearly stated.