Ensure allergist representation in the AMA

The College has been fortunate to represent the subspecialty of allergy in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) House of Delegates for more than 25 years. We have made our voice heard in countless decisions from resolutions that affect all of medicine to new allergy CPT codes and/or definitions.

Every five years, the AMA reviews national specialty societies for continued representation in the House of Delegates. Our review will take place in early 2019! If 20% of College members are not AMA members at the time of the review, we will lose our seat and our voice in decisions. If you are not currently an AMA member or if your membership needs to be renewed, we urge you to join or renew your membership in the AMA today!

If you’re on the fence about AMA membership, read on to see just one way the AMA is working for you.

Eradicating and preventing physician burnout

A 2012 AMA survey of 27,300 randomly-chosen physicians from the AMA’s database showed that about half of the respondents had some symptoms of burnout according to the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Family medicine, internal medicine and emergency medicine showed the highest negative ratings with emotional exhaustion as the major symptom.

Allergists were not identified in the sample, but the College’s Physician Wellness Task Force surveyed members using the Maslach Burnout Inventory. First, the survey went to all practicing allergists in the U.S. and Canada. It was taken by 360 College members, and the results showed that allergists tend to be more emotionally exhausted than the general medical population but experience less depersonalization (an unfeeling and impersonal response toward patients). Results also indicated allergists feel a stronger sense of personal accomplishment than other medical professionals. Then the survey was sent to Fellows-in-Training, and the results were very similar. Overall, what we discovered is actually very positive and gave us a better picture of what typical allergists are experiencing.

There are a lot of reasons physicians experience burnout at a rate much higher than other professionals. The causes mentioned most often are the increasing, burdensome regulations physicians deal with – as well as the often-dysfunctional electronic health record systems (EHRs). The good news is that the AMA has been working hard to improve EHRs for physicians – but that in itself won’t put an end to physician burnout.

Burnout is a very serious issue, and it seems that reports of symptoms among physicians are steadily rising. Sufferers may be more disposed to errors, provide less quality of care and receive lower patient satisfaction. And personally, burnout can lead to clinical depression, addiction, broken relationships and even suicidal ideation.

"Physicians are professionals who, at their core, are called to self-sacrifice and inclined to always do what’s necessary to take care of patients,” said Steven Stack, MD, past AMA president. “But modern medicine can take a toll over time, and the AMA wants physicians to know about the risks associated with burnout and the strategies to help combat it.”

Toward that end, the AMA developed Steps Forward to help physicians learn about burnout and work to fight it. Modules include stress management, resilience, and redesigning practice flow and procedures to improve the practice environment. Other modules include more practice efficiency suggestions.

As you can tell, the AMA is hard at work improving physician well-being. We need all allergists to support the AMA with our membership –  renew or join to ensure our voice is heard and to support them in their impactful work.

Stephen Imbeau, MD, FACAAI
Chair of the College’s Advocacy Council