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Finding Effective Treatment for Impaired Physicians

Rebecca Voelker
JAMA. 1994;272(16):1238. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520160020008.
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ALMOST TWO DECADES after acknowledging that some physicians become addicted to alcohol and other drugs, the Federation of State Medical Boards is refining policies aimed at providing impaired physicians with effective treatment.

The federation broached the topic of physician impairment in the late 1970s by recommending that all state medical licensing boards have the power to take disciplinary action based on impairment, not harm to patients.

But by the mid 1980s, federation officials felt a revision was in order. In addition to developing a brief definition of impairment, the federation recommended that state boards be able to direct their licensees into treatment programs and encourage treatment by exempting reporting requirements for those who complied with treatment provisos.

Now, says James Winn, MD, the federation's executive vice president, it's time to refine existing policies.

The goal is "to define not only the elements which are essential to model [treatment] programs, but


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