AMA to Doctors: Patients Come First, Always
Doctors increasingly say they prefer working in hospitals to running their own practices. What does this mean for medical ethics? The AMA is weighing in.
In an era of changing employment trends in the medical profession, the American Medical Association is reminding doctors that patient welfare always comes first, The New York Times reported.
The policy points to the importance of patient care over economic gain, stating, “In any situation where the economic or other interests of the employer are in conflict with patient welfare, patient welfare must take priority.”
The statement comes at a time when a growing number doctors prefer to be employed by hospitals rather than run their own practices, according the AMA. A recent survey from MDLinx cites financial hardships, noting that nearly 20 percent of doctors said they could foresee closing their own practice if their financial situation didn’t improve, CNN Money reported.
The guidelines [PDF] note that referral decisions should always be in the best interests of patients, and that any restrictions on referrals that hospitals place on the doctors they employ (such as requirements that patients be referred to providers affiliated with the hospital) should be disclosed to patients. Another provision: Patients should be notified if the hospital would financially benefit from any recommendations the doctor might make to certain providers or services.
Other problem areas the guidelines address:
- Conflicts of interest
- Advocacy for patients
- Hospital-medical staff relations
- Peer review and performance evaluations
- Payment agreements
Has your association developed guidelines to reflect emerging ethical dilemmas in your field? Share your experience in the comments.