by David Markenson, MD, MBA, President, Colorado Medical Society

As my presidential year comes to a close I have reflected on what a challenging year this has been for our members and patients, and also how Colorado physicians have risen to what once seemed like impossible challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. By serving on the front lines and pivoting our practices quickly, we have again highlighted to the world the unique role of the physician in society as we have cared for patients, educated the public and protected the patient-physician relationship.

The Colorado Medical Society’s promise to our members is to support physicians in all career phases. I am proud of the resources and programs our staff and leadership developed over the past few months, sometimes with just days to plan. I’m thinking specifically of the more than 12,000 continuing medical education hours and many COPIC Points earned by physicians through our Town Halls, Virtual Grand Rounds and topical webinars; opportunities to order personal protective equipment when shortages, quality issues and price spikes plagued the process and kept individuals from placing orders through their normal channels; and unifying the Colorado House of Medicine in advocacy for physicians to be sure we were as effective as possible in the public policy sphere.

Speaking of advocacy, an issue of top importance is the tumultuous situation surrounding the contract to provide physician peer assistance services, which eliminated confidentiality for voluntary self-referral. You have received several updates from CMS and me about what we are doing to sound the alarm on the harmful consequences for both physicians and patients; DORA’s decision to issue a request for proposal (RFP) that required the awardee to have physicians sign releases for voluntary self-referral is counter to patient safety, mental health care and support, and physician well-being. It extends beyond our profession and sets a dangerous precedent for anyone voluntarily seeking care.

As I continue to tell top officials, confidentiality is key for physicians who voluntarily self-refer. Without this confidentiality, physicians will not feel comfortable getting the help they need. When physicians can’t get the care they need, it can turn into a patient safety issue. Assuring the health, wellness, and ability of physicians to seek confidential support and treatment has been repeatedly proven to improve the quality of patient care. We must have a provider of support services and evaluation for physicians with experience in this type of support and evaluation with physicians as part of the leadership team.

It has been a privilege to have served this past year as your president. I have heard from many of you regarding the challenges but also the opportunities we all face. I have seen the benefit of uniting all physicians through CMS, having one voice speak for us and such an exceptional organization behind all of us to assure we continue to improve the practice of medicine for all physicians, which improves the care and health of all Coloradans. I have also had the opportunity to work with physician and staff leaders of the component societies and specialty societies across our state. I have been heartened to see the great work the entire House of Medicine has accomplished when we are unified – CMS, component societies and specialty societies – in our advocacy and communication. I look forward to this continued unified approach, as the work of these groups on behalf of the physicians we serve is so much stronger together as one House of Medicine.

As I had said in my inaugural address, a central theme of my presidency was reestablishing and reinforcing to all the unique role and place in society of a physician, including the physician-patient relationship and the calling to be a physician. While in all we do every day the special role of a physician is reinforced, I could never have anticipated a pandemic during my year as president and how it would highlight the importance of physicians to society.

COVID-19 has presented incredible challenges for all of us but it has reinforced our role as caregivers, leaders, educators and advocates for our patients and public health. Once again, thank you for giving me the honor of being your president and representing you this past year. It has been a privilege and an experience like no other and has, for me, shown again why it is such a special calling to be a physician.

Categories: Communications, Colorado Medicine, President's Letter, Resources, COVID, Initiatives, Patient Safety and Professional Accountability