“It Allows Doctors to Be Human Beings”: Mass. Hospitals Will Stop Asking Clinicians About Past Mental Health and Addiction

January 19, 2024

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News
Speaker:  Massachusetts


Medical licensing forms in Massachusetts will no longer include questions about mental health and substance use history. This marks a major change from the past, when doctors and other clinicians had to disclose previous mental illness or addiction on credentialing forms for hospitals and insurers. Such disclosures by clinicians would often result in further investigation and monitoring, prompting fears that seeking mental health treatment would put their careers at risk. This change comes at a time when health care workers are experiencing increased burnout and higher rated of suicide compared to other workers. In response, Massachusetts joins two dozen other states where medical licensing boards have stopped asking about mental health history. Instead, the state’s hospitals and insurers will focus on clinicians’ current ability to care for patients. “If you’re currently able to practice medicine, and you’re taking care of yourself, that’s what we should be interested in—not what you did previously,” said Dr. Barbara Spivak, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “That’s a huge step forward.”

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