Dear Colorado Medical Society members:
As you may have heard, the appeal submitted by the Colorado Physician Health Program (CPHP) asking for the state to reconsider the request for proposal (RFP) conditions and basis for awarding the peer assistance contract for physicians to Peer Assistance Services (PAS) has been denied. This occurred despite coordinated advocacy by CMS and the Colorado House of Medicine that included explaining to state leaders the importance to patients, physicians, and the health care of all Coloradans of physicians’ unimpeded access to voluntary self-referral for support.
Earlier this year, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) announced its intention to offer the state peer assistance contract to PAS and to require ALL physicians accessing the program, including voluntary services, to sign a waiver allowing PAS to share their medical information with the Colorado Medical Board. In addition, the awardee has no experience in the required types of evaluation and services for physicians and has no physicians as part of its leadership team. Following that award announcement, the Colorado Medical Society (CMS) has worked with the entire House of Medicine to appeal the decision, based on the risk to patients and physicians created by removing this critical access to support for physicians.
Following this week’s ruling, I immediately submitted a letter to Patty Salazar, Executive Director of DORA, expressing extreme disappointment in the decision, once again emphasizing that this action creates a significant barrier by removing confidentiality protections for physicians who voluntarily self-refer for services, a protection that has been shown to enhance seeking care and one all individuals seeking support should be afforded. CMS believes this will have harmful consequences for patient safety, maintaining an adequate physician workforce for Colorado, and the mental health and well-being of physicians. Read the letter here.
As a Colorado physician it is imperative that you reach out to DORA Executive Director Patty Salazar (email@example.com or 303-894-7866) to express your concerns with this decision. Please feel free to copy firstname.lastname@example.org on your email to Executive Director Salazar. Here are some sample talking points you can use:
- DORA’s decision to award the physician peer assistance contract to PAS in its current form is extremely concerning and will have harmful consequences for both physicians and patients.
- DORA’s decision to issue an RFP that required the awardee to have physicians sign releases for all referrals is counter to patient safety, mental health care and support, and physician well-being.
- Confidentiality is key for physicians who voluntarily self-refer — they cannot be required to sign a release of information to the Colorado Medical Board.
- 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.
- Having a provider of support services and evaluation for physicians without experience in this type of support and evaluation and without physicians as part of the leadership team is unsafe, not a true form of peer-to-peer professional services, and below any accepted standard of care.
- Especially during this challenging time, when everyone is feeling the strain of COVID-19's impacts, we need to make sure physicians are supported so that they can care for their patients.
Thank you for your support on this critical issue.
David Markenson, MD, MBA
President, Colorado Medical Society