AMA: SUNBEAM IMAGE PROBLEMS PERSIST
Top officials from the American Medical Association haveThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
spent the past three days discussing the organization's future
after recent controversies, including "last month's public
relations fiasco involving the group and endorsement of Sunbeam
Corp. products," have shaken the group's image. Chicago Tribune
reports that Dr. Nancy Dickey, AMA president-elect, said that the
group is conducting an internal investigation into the Sunbeam
deal. According to Dickey, the "deal was never authorized by the
AMA's board or key committees that review such projects." She
said, "What we are trying to find out is, was this inadvertent,
was there a misunderstanding, or was there purposeful
circumvention," of procedures? Under the deal with Sunbeam, the
AMA agreed to endorse exclusively some Sunbeam home health
products in exchange for millions in royalties from Sunbeam.
Although the AMA withdrew from the deal, it "provoked a tidal
wave of criticism from the news media and industry experts."
The AMA has also launched a host of initiatives aimed at
making itself more relevant to doctors. The organization is
spending millions of dollars on the ethics department of the
organization, and is spending time focusing on the "threat to
physicians' professional integrity, standards and commitment to
patient interests in a healthcare environment increasingly
dominated by corporate interests." The association is also
developing a physician accreditation program in an attempt to
"reassert its central role in evaluating physicians." Dr.
Raymond Scaletar, former chair of the AMA board, said, "The AMA
does many things very, very well. But missteps like this
(Sunbeam deal) create not just public mistrust, but mistrust and
disillusionment among its members. I think this needs to be a
wakeup call to the organization" (Graham, 9/7).
LOWER MEMBERSHIP RATES
In related news, Chicago Tribune reports that "[t]raditional
broad based medical societies" are finding it more difficult to
find and retain members. Tribune reports that this is partially
due to doctors joining organizations that are geared toward their
specialties, and is also due to the organizations failing to pay
attention to younger members' interests and needs. Dr. Jack
Lewin, chief executive of the California Medical Association,
said, "Physicians and the organizations that represent them bear
a tremendous amount of blame. We let costs go out of control.
We failed to weed out bad doctors even when we knew who they
were. We ignored some of the key ethical issues that required
our attention." An additional threat comes from "new health care
entities that employ doctors or closely oversee their practices,"
Tribune reports. These organizations are taking over the
traditional responsibilities of medical societies -- such as
coordinating continuing medical education or malpractice
insurance for doctors -- which is causing concern about doctors'
new loyalties to business-oriented organizations. Dr. Charles
Aswad, executive vice president of the New York medical society,
said, "If doctors see their primary affiliation as being with a
managed care plan or a health care company or a business unit,
the standards that have governed this profession throughout this
century could disappear in a single generation" (Graham, 9/7).