Introduction: Lessons Through Uncertainty

Jennifer Hanscom, Executive Director/CEO, Washington State Medical Association

While I was reading recently about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, a quote jumped out at me: “How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty?”

Isn’t that the truth? The disorder and confusion of COVID-19 have shaken us all, to be sure. But even in the midst of it, I'm grateful that the healthcare community has responded as it has during other health crises, large and small—by joining together to face the crisis head-on, and by advocating for health first. Throughout our nation, physicians have stepped up in exceptional ways in response to this pandemic, even as their practices suffered financial losses from steps taken to limit clinic capacity, conserve PPE, and stop the spread of a virus we knew little about.

Now, while there are signs of hope for a vaccine, we are not out of the woods as far as economic destruction is concerned. I can assure you, each state’s medical association is working hard to secure adequate financial support from state and federal governments. We continue to work at the national and state levels to pass liability protections for physicians, particularly those forced to adapt and limit their practices to align with state proclamations. 

Moving forward, we all must work to capitalize on telemedicine. COVID-19 pushed us to embrace this technology, as we joined policymakers in encouraging our patients to stay home and stay healthy. The proliferation of telemedicine has allowed patients during the pandemic to access primary-care services, medication and chronic condition management, MAT for opioid use disorders, and critical psychiatric and behavioral healthcare. And by advancing payment parity for virtual and audio-only visits, we have begun to address some of the health inequities that many patients face in accessing care. 

At Physicians Insurance, at your state medical association, and within your own medical practice, we all know that a robust professional and  practice environment is necessary to ensure that patients and communities have access to quality care when they need it. That’s why, along with COVID-19 support, advancing strong physician leadership and advocacy that will shape medicine’s future remains our key priority in this difficult time.

Physicians are no strangers to staying strong during times of crisis—or to navigating indefinite uncertainty. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to focus on being nimble, meeting our patients where they are, and ensuring access to care for all. These are lessons that will feel familiar, though more urgent than ever, to physicians everywhere.