Recently, I heard a presentation from the Charles Meredith, MD, the medical director of the Washington Physicians Health Program (WPHP). It was a fascinating talk and really underscored the value and importance of impaired provider programs.

While most of the providers in these programs are there related to substance use disorders, they usually include an additional focus on mental health disorders and other causes of impairment.

Part of the WPHP presentation focused on how the programs’ confidentiality yields a much larger group of providers because they can seek care without fear of losing their jobs or licenses. For providers who are either referred by colleagues or self-referred, their care and recovery stays completely confidential as long as the provider is compliant with the program and monitoring.

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Other fascinating data from the presentation showed that for providers who successfully complete the program’s rigorous evaluation, testing, and monitoring, the risk of future malpractice claims is lower compared with all other providers. Impaired provider programs include approximately 1% of all licensed eligible providers (PAs, MDs, DOs, DVMs, and DDSs/DMDs) and are primarily funded by provider licensing fees. Helping providers and protecting the public makes the provider fee a great investment.  

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is a physician assistant in Seattle.