At its meeting last weekend in Cary, the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) Board of Directors met with current Leadership College scholars as well as with past NCMS presidents to ensure they are fully aware of the issues of concern to both past and future NCMS leaders.

Physician Wellness Initiative

Leadership College scholars and Board members heard a moving testimonial from Andrew Lamb, MD, vice president of medical affairs for Alamance Regional Medical Center about his own struggle with burnout and its larger toll on the physician, his or her family, colleagues and patients. He also described the innovative program he and his team at Cone Health have begun to implement to raise awareness of and address the problem. He provided the following statistics:

  • 46 percent of physicians have experienced symptoms of burnout.
  • Studies show to replace a burned out physician costs between $400,000 and $2 million.
  • Only 5 percent of hospital programs in this country have any program to deal with physician burnout.

Joe Jordan, Interim Director of the Physicians Health Plan (PHP) introduced the newly formed NC Consortium for Physician Resiliency and Retention, of which the NCMS is playing an integral role. Started last summer, the consortium’s objective is to create a network of support through a consortium of likeminded individuals dedicated to addressing issue of physician burnout. Besides the NCMS, the consortium also includes representatives from the North Carolina Medical Board and is being spearheaded by PHP. A key component in tackling this problem is removing the stigma or “career fear” around burnout, Jordan said, and how to create a culture of acceptance, openness, understanding where it’s ok to ask for help.
The NCMS is working to develop resources to help physicians and is soliciting your input and ideas. Please contact Shawn Scott or Pam Highsmith at the NCMS, 919-833-3836 to learn more or get involved in this initiative.

Enduring NCMS Leaders Meet with Board

Eight former NCMS Presidents met jointly with the current Board of Directors to hear staff reports on current issues facing the Board and medical community including Medicaid reform, MACRA, opioid abuse, scope of practice issues and helping to initiate value-based models of care in rural and underserved communities in North Carolina. These enduring leaders offered their thoughts and insights on these and other topics.

BCBS CEO Meets with NCMS Board

Brad Wilson, the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) spoke with the Board about the much publicized ‘operational challenges’ the state’s largest insurer has been facing since the first of the year. He told Board members that they had a major software failure that was bad, but never as bad as portrayed by the media. The problem was confined to those who enrolled through the Affordable Care Act or approximately 100,000 of the 3.9 million people served by BCBSNC.
“We’re cleaning it up. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we can see the edge,” Wilson said, noting that this month his staff is focusing on the claims issues and hopes that all held claims will have been moved through the system by the end of the month. “Thank you for your patience. We’ll stay at it until it’s right,” he said.

Stakeholder Meeting on CON

NCMS President Docia Hickey, MD, reported to the Board on her meeting with representatives from those specialties concerned about Certificate of Need (CON) changes. The meeting, which did not include any NCMS staff, was a chance for open and honest discussion between Hickey and a representative from radiology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, anesthesiology, ENT, plastic surgery, pathology, emergency physicians and the American College of Surgeons specialty organizations.
Overall there was a cordial exchange of views, Hickey said. Another meeting is planned to see if consensus can be reached on this hotly debated issue.
Since the first of the year, the Board has heard presentations from both sides in the issue and is grappling with how to formulate a policy stance that addresses everyone’s concerns.

In Other NCMS Board News

  • The Durham Orange County Medical Society asked the Board for a resolution seeking changes to HB2, the controversial act passed by the General Assembly in March “to provide for single-sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities in schools and public agencies and to create statewide consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.” The Board unanimously voted to refer this request to the Legislative Cabinet for consideration since it refers to a specific bill. The NCMS’ Legislative Cabinet reviews legislation and makes recommendations to the Board.
  • NCMS CEO Robert W. Seligson invited John Woodyear, Jr., MD, a family physician in Troy, NC, whom he had met through the Old North State Medical Society, to present his idea on how to decrease diversion of opioids to the NCMS Board of Directors. Dr. Woodyear explained his concept of Source Traceable Identification of Medication (STIM), which would entail printing a QR or scan code on each pill of a controlled substance, making it traceable to the person for whom it was prescribed. By putting this code, which would be printed with a harmless, FDA-approved food dye, on the pill, the pharmacist could electronically link the pill to the patient. If the pill was stolen or diverted to someone else, law enforcement could scan the pills to establish that it had been diverted. If someone tried to erase or adulterate the code, they could be held liable for tampering with a controlled substance, Dr. Woodyear told the Board. He showed the Board a video that he hopes to release soon to gain legislative and/or regulatory support for his idea.
  • Staff is working to implement the new process for election of NCMS officers and board members now that the House of Delegates has been eliminated. Watch the Bulletin for updates on how to cast your vote.
  • The NCMS annual business meeting will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, during the M3 – Merging Medicine and Management – Conference at the Grandover Hotel and Spa in Greensboro. The business meeting is free and open to all NCMS members. Educational sessions including tracks on opioid prescribing, physician well-being and leadership development as well as social gatherings will be held as part of the larger conference and we hope everyone will participate in the entire weekend as well as the business meeting. Read more about the M3 Conference in the article in this issue of the Bulletin.