NCMS Morning Rounds 1-27-21

Here’s Your Wednesday NCMS Morning Rounds.

Jan. 27, 2021

NCPHP Report to NCMS Board

At its meeting Saturday, Jan. 23, the NCMS Board of Directors received its customary annual update from the NC Professionals Health Program (formerly the NC Physicians Health Program, NCPHP). NC PHP CEO Joseph P. Jordan, PhD, provided statistics on the number of professionals served by the program, which assists health care providers with substance use disorders, mental health issues, burnout, communication problems and other issues that may affect their ability to deliver optimal care and services to their patients. NCPHP experts evaluate, monitor and make referrals to treatment programs as well as advocate for participants to their employers, partners, hospitals, insurance panels and licensing boards.

Dr. Jordan reported that NCPHP received 216 referrals in 2020 with two-thirds related to substance use disorders. The main referral source is the NC Medical Board. In examining the demographics of the referrals, he noted there was a jump in the 30- to 39-year-old age group, which he attributed to millennials being more open to discussing mental health concerns and more likely to reach out for help.

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has had an impact on what NCPHP is seeing, he said. For instance, when looking at the referrals broken down by specialty, anesthesiology is usually overrepresented. This year family medicine and internal medicine made up a large proportion of referrals in 2020. Dr. Jordan surmised this may be because clinicians in these specialties, often being on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19, are experiencing more stress. An increase in the number of relapses for those who have completed treatment through NCPHP also may be due to the pandemic. Access to AA meetings and other such programs were suspended at the start of the pandemic making it more difficult for some to maintain their treatment progress. Relapses may also be due to the added stress and isolation the pandemic has brought, he said.

Board members commented that some health care providers who are relentlessly dealing with the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in its aftermath. Dr. Jordan agreed and said NCPHP has been proactive in preparing for that possibility including hiring a clinical psychologist who has worked in the military and criminal justice system and is familiar with identifying and treating PTSD.

On a positive note, the NCPHP scholarship program, which partners with the NCMS Foundation, was able to offer more scholarship support this year than ever before – approximately $200,000 to help those in need be assessed, receive outpatient or residential treatment.

NCMS Board Approves Tobacco-Free NC Policy

The NCMS Board of Directors approved the recommendation of the NCMS’ Policy Committee last Saturday and adopted a policy titled ‘Tobacco-Free NC,’ which incorporates  11 previous NCMS policies around tobacco. The Policy Committee made the recommendation in line with the NCMS’ mission and Guiding Principles to improve the overall health and well-being of everyone in North Carolina.

Here is the newly adopted NCMS’ Tobacco Free NC policy:

The North Carolina Medical Society supports a tobacco-free society where all public spaces are free of tobacco in all forms (including smoke and vapor).

The North Carolina Medical Society supports funding and access to initiatives and programs aimed at education, prevention and cessation to aid in reduction of tobacco use across North Carolina, especially in children/teens.

DiabetesFreeNC 2020 Summary and Look Ahead

About a year ago, the NCMS and the AMA joined with other partners in North Carolina to launch DiabetesFreeNC , an awareness-raising and referral initiative focused on diabetes prevention programs (DPP) statewide. Kudos to the program’s three physician champions — Karen Smith, MD, FAAFP; Brian Klausner, MD and Jeffrey Viar, DO — who, through videos, media outreach and presentations to their colleagues, were able to promote the importance of the initiative and engage other clinicians.

Yesterday, these physician champions reviewed the progress made and looked ahead to building on that foundation in the coming months. Despite the turmoil caused by the pandemic, about 80 physicians formally pledged to support the effort and about 1,500 individuals total enrolled in a DPP statewide in 2020.

DiabetesFreeNC connects those who are pre-diabetic to evidence-based DPP through a variety of referral options. For instance, the NCMS Foundation’s Our Community Health Initiative (OCHI) referral platform is embedded in the EHR, so you can refer a patient to a DPP as you would refer them to a specialist. Other referrals may go through the state’s NCCARE360 platform or the individual may use the online DPP Navigator.

Beyond the NCMS and AMA, partners in the effort include the NC Division of Public Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC, the NC Academy of Family Physicians, the NC Community Health Center Association, LabCorp and the NC Alliance of YMCAs.

Looking ahead, the group will seek to continue its outreach to ask more physicians to take the DiabetesFreeNC pledge as well as raise awareness in the larger community. The health inequities highlighted by the pandemic actually may offer opportunities to reach more vulnerable populations and to empower patients to take responsibility for their health through a DPP. For clinicians who are part of an Accountable Care Organization, joining in this effort can be a great way to demonstrate outcomes to earn shared savings.

Learn more about DiabetesFreeNC here.

In the News

29 Physician Specialties Ranked By Burnout Rates, Becker’s Hospital Review, 1-25-21

Learning Opportunity

The NC Ob/Gyn Society & NC Section of ACOG’s 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, March 19-20, 2021
The target audience for this meeting includes obstetricians and gynecologists in private practice and in academic medicine, residents in training, physician assistants, and advanced practice providers. This educational activity will update attendees on the latest medical knowledge available from medical literature, clinical experience and research, to keep practitioners on the forefront of new discoveries and their application to the practice of obstetrics and gynecology for the benefit of their patients.

At the end of this meeting, attendees should:
– To discuss latest updates on breast cancer screening, including genetic counseling and imaging;
– Understanding obesity medication management in weight loss management;
– Help Ob/Gyns appreciate the value that APPs can provide for their patients;
-To recognize what millennial patients value from their providers and practices and identify realistic ways to meet their expectations;
– Provide the latest updates on common STD/I’s with a focus on the impact to the pregnant population, federal and state regulatory oversight for testing and treatment, with highlights on Syphilis Outbreak in NC, Disseminated Gonorrhea/ Drug Resistance, and Mycoplasma genitalium.

Learn more and register here.

If you have policies you’d like your NCMS Board of Directors to consider, please complete the Board input form here. Thanks for reading!


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