PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, Spring 2019

Friday, April 12, 2019
The FSPHP: Growing in Sophistication and Stature
Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM

Two thousand nineteen has started out with a bang for the Federation of State Physician Health Programs, with more active projects than any time in our history. I am sure many of our readers will be coming to our Annual Meeting to hear all about it, but I wanted to tell you more about the interlocking pieces of our biggest project to date.

In 2016, many of our members were talking about our standards. Driven by the natural need for continuous improvement and a smaller need to respond to incorrect and misplaced concerns, the ACE Committee took up the task to revise our 2005 Guidelines document. The result is a whopping one-hundred-page, impressive revision to the Guidelines that define best practices for PHPs and our service organizations. The project has been led by Maureen Dinnan, Esq. (Connecticut), and Doina Lupea, MD (Ontario). With contributions from innumerable content providers, editors, and fact and reference checkers this fine compendium is almost ready for prime time. It covers nearly every aspect of building and maintaining a physician’s health program. In addition, it delineates quality practices by our partners who treat our participants.

But—wait there is more. The revised Guidelines will be part of a larger, two-pronged project, the FSPHP Performance Enhancement and Excellence Review (PEER™) and the Provider Accreditation (PA) process. The PEER™ uses the elements of the Guidelines to encourage PHPs to survey their services, looking for service areas that can be modified or enhanced. Once a PHP completes an internal assessment, they may choose to go the next step, to have an external reviewer take a look at PHP procedures and systems—to complete a PEER™. In this manner, each PHP can validate the excellence of their program.

We felt the PEER™ process of external review would ensure each program is up to date and continues to grow in sophistication. Many of our sister organizations agreed. When we asked other national organizations if they agreed, they validated the importance of the Physician Health Program model though very generous financial support. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) all provided financial support to the development of this review process. The level of endorsement we received through financial contributions is currently $65,000. We have made a solid development launch toward our fundraising goals for this project. We anticipate additional sponsors to join this alliance of support. Building this program is expensive and we cannot do it without the support of organized medicine.

The second arm of our quality assurance process is the Provider Accreditation Program (PAP). This program is based upon standards defined in our new Guidelines to accredit our external providers. It is important to note that this program does not replace hospital accreditation, such as that provided by CARF or the Joint Commission. Rather, the added accreditation process by the FSPHP ensures an evaluation or treatment center understands and is ready to address and treat the special needs of healthcare providers in a safety-sensitive occupation. The PAP builds on a small existing process developed several years ago by several FSPHP member states.

The result of this enormous multi-year process will be a validation of the excellent services PHPs provide. Our research-validated excellent outcomes are well documented. However, I would predict that each program will find one or more areas that need tightening up, revision, or improvement. But this is the nature of healthcare. There is always room to improve. The FSPHP is here to shape the process of continuous improvement by every PHP and every provider we use. We are improving our services and growing in sophistication thanks to the concerted effort of our members.