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January 20, 2023

Updated Washington Practitioner Application Supports Physician Well-Being

Jennifer Hanscom, CEO

Last summer, the Physicians Foundation conducted a survey of physicians that focused on physicians' well-being and solutions needed to improve wellness. The survey called out that nearly four in 10 physicians were afraid or knew another physician who was fearful of seeking mental health care given questions asked in medical licensure and credentialing insurance applications.

Thankfully, the Washington Medical Commission had the foresight to understand this barrier to wellness that medical licensing applications were creating. As a result, the commission updated language on the initial licensure application and renewal applications so that applicants no longer have to disclose mental health or substance use disorder information due to the new "safe haven" provisions. This happened in 2018 and was hailed as a vast improvement, as well as a meaningful and practical change toward eliminating barriers to wellness.

But the work didn't stop there. Earlier this month, a newly streamlined Washington Practitioner Application was released, with changes reflecting input from the physician community that will decrease barriers to seeking help.

The WPA is a standardized application that is accepted by most physician organizations, hospitals, and health plans and throughout the state. Changes to the application include:

  • Updated attestation question regarding a practitioner's physical and mental health conditions. After years of discussions and input from numerous organizations, the credentialing standardization committee overseeing the form revisions settled on a more streamlined question that still meets regulatory agency requirements to inquire about a practitioner's mental health status.
  • A new section that asks for contact details for the monitoring program the practitioner is enrolled in but does not ask for any details around the condition or circumstances that led to being admitted into the monitoring program or the practitioner's current status with the monitoring program. This ensures that no practitioner's protected health information ends up on the WPA.

The WSMA gives special thanks to Washington Physicians Health Program Executive Medical Director Chris Bundy, MD, a strong physician advocate who helped provide guidance to both the Washington Medical Commission and the credentialing standardization committee. These combined changes represent significant progress in decreasing barriers to help-seeking for physicians and physician assistants in our state and furthers WSMA's vision to make Washington the best place to practice medicine and receive care.

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