Massachusetts first to drop questions on healthcare workers' mental health, drug use

Massachusetts has become the first U.S. state to remove questions about healthcare professionals' mental health history and past drug use from credentialing processes, a noteworthy instance of stakeholder collaboration. 

Although professional boards in approximately two dozen states have modified licensure applications to remove questions related to physicians' mental health, Massachusetts is the first in the country to completely eliminate the questions from credentialing forms used by hospitals, health systems, insurers and medical licensing boards in the commonwealth. 

The change was enacted by the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, Massachusetts Medical Society, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to reduce stigma among healthcare professionals. 

The move comes after more than a year of efforts to identify and remove the language, led by Massachusetts' hospital association, The Boston Globe reports. The association collected and analyzed credentialing forms from every hospital, health insurer and medical licensing board in the state to identify potentially stigmatizing questions about past treatment or diagnosis of a mental illness or substance use disorder.

The association found many forms had remained unchanged for decades, and some even placed questions about past mental health and treatment for substance use in the same category as criminal convictions, the Globe reports. 

"These changes signify a major reduction of stigma-fueled barriers that render physicians reluctant to seek appropriate care for their own mental health concerns, including those commonly known to drive and exacerbate burnout like depression and anxiety," Massachusetts Medical Society President Barbara Spivak, MD, said in a joint news release on the statewide change. "This supportive approach will encourage physicians to take care of themselves, so they are better equipped to deliver safe, quality, and equitable patient care." 

A number of leading healthcare organizations support the removal of potentially invasive and stigmatizing language from credentialing forms, including the American Medical Association, the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation, The Joint Commission, the National Academy of Medicine, the U.S. Surgeon General Health Worker Burnout Advisory, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Federation of State Physician Health Programs, and The Federation of State Medical Boards.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars