Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incoming AMA Head Takes Hopeful View

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Incoming AMA Head Takes Hopeful View

Article excerpt

If incoming American Medical Association President Steven Stack writes prescriptions as clearly as he speaks, pharmacists must love him.

During a recent interview with the Times-Union editorial board, Stack, a Lexington, Ky.-based emergency room physician, was refreshingly direct and blunt.

Speaking without notes but with ample doses of straightforward language and humor, Stack adeptly addressed the challenges facing the medical profession.

"I have to come down on the side of hope because despondency and despair are utterly unfulfilling," Stack quipped when asked if he was optimistic that progress can be made on the numerous issues that physicians face today.

Some of those issues threaten to make doctors become disenchanted with the profession.

Stack will become the AMA's youngest-ever president in 100 years when he officially begins his duties next month. At age 43, he cuts an impressive figure.

He clearly won't be intimidated by the responsibilities that will come with leading the AMA, the nation's largest physician organization.

And Stack certainly has the potential to be an influential figure in American medicine long after his stint as AMA president ends.

Reforming payment models that emphasize quality of results rather than quantity of procedures is a national imperative. As the boomer generation eases into its geriatric years, there will be large numbers of patients eager to maintain the quality of their lives.

EASE THE BURDEN

Stack said that Congress' recent successful bipartisan work to reform and streamline how Medicare payments are made to physicians represented a key breakthrough.

Physicians could not plan when payments were juggled every year.

"It was absolutely imperative," Stack said of Medicare payment reform, commonly referred to as the "doc fix" measure.

Now doctors will have more certainty in projecting the costs and revenues of their practices.

But Stack said that was "just a first step" in what's needed to offer more backing for America's physicians, who are having increasing piles of data, regulations and technological demands dumped into their laps but without often having the resources - or the constructive relationships with public and private insurers - to handle it all in an organized, streamlined fashion.

The end result, Stack said, is that many physicians' offices are forced to devote too much attention to administrative busy work and clerical tasks, much of it duplicative and ineffective.

This time should be spent with patients, which is where Stack said doctors truly find "the joy" in their practices.

"One physician said it's like 50 different people shouting their priorities at you at the same time, and (you're) trying to make some kind of coherent and rational sense of it," Stack said. …

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