The nation’s physicians concluded their second day of voting at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) annual policy-making meeting in Chicago. The unifying physician consensus developed at the democratic forum directs the political and legislative agenda of the country’s largest physician organization.
Following are several policies adopted to date by the nation’s physicians:
FLU PROTECTION GUIDELINES FOR AIRLINE TRAVEL
The recent outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus highlights the importance of basic hygiene to help protect patients from the flu. The confined nature of air travel poses an increased risk for influenza to passengers who are exposed to a sick flight mate who is coughing and/or sneezing.
“Avoiding close contact with sick people and washing your hands regularly can keep the flu bug away,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “We support the efforts of the CDC to develop clear and consistent guidelines to help ensure passengers and flight staff are protected from the spread of disease.”
ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES IN SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAMS
Tobacco kills 500,000 Americans each year and the medical community employs numerous ways to help patients quit smoking.
“We don’t yet know if electronic cigarettes can safely help patients quit smoking or the risks associated with delivering nicotine in this fashion,” said AMA Board Member Joseph Annis, M.D. “We will study electronic cigarettes to see if this is a viable option to help patients quit smoking and reduce the risk for smoking-related diseases.”
BREAST CANCER IN MEN
The AMA passed policy today that recognizes breast cancer as a condition that affects males as well as females and supports education about the risks, signs, and symptoms of male breast cancer. The AMA also supports insurance coverage for male breast cancer monitoring and diagnostic methods. Risk factors for male breast cancer include genetic predisposition, alterations to the estrogen-testosterone ratio, radiation exposure, and occupational hazards.
“Male breast cancer is rare, but it tends to be diagnosed at later stages,” said AMA Board Member Edward Langston, M.D. “Heightened awareness of the increased risk in certain men may result in earlier detection of male breast cancer. Clinical breast examinations are effective at evaluating breast cancer symptoms, but mammography may also help.”
GUIDELINES FOR BREACH OF INFORMATION IN ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS
Medical information housed in an EMR travels from patient to health care provider to health insurance industry with limited regulation and oversight. Security breaches can happen and physicians need guidance about their responsibilities if health information has been compromised. The guidelines outline specific steps for physicians to take to protect patient information. The new AMA guidelines ask physicians to:
(1) ensure patients are properly informed of the breach
(2) follow ethically appropriate procedures for disclosure
(3) support responses to security breaches that place the interests of patients above those of physician, medical practice or institution
(4) to the extent possible, provide information to patients to enable them to diminish potential adverse consequences of the breach of personal health information.
— USE OF HORMONES FOR ANTI-AGING PROCEDURES
Despite the widespread promotion of hormones for anti-aging, the scientific evidence to support these claims is lacking. In some cases, evidence suggests that long-term use of a particular hormone has more risks than benefits. Hormones reviewed by AMA include human growth hormone, testosterone, and estrogens with and without progestins.
Today, the AMA passed policy to inform physicians, policy makers and the public of the current scientific evidence on the use of hormones for anti-aging. Proponents of any hormone or other substance for anti-aging have the responsibility to prove that claims are scientifically valid. “The AMA wants patients to know the risks and benefits of hormones promoted to reduce the signs of aging,” said AMA Board Member Steven Stack, M.D. “Patients should weigh the risks and benefits and base their decisions on scientifically valid information.”