13 December 2019

Behind every good doctor is another good doctor

Medicolegal Mental Health

Doctors who fear seeking medical help because of professional stigma or are concerned about being reported to the Medical Board of Australia, should put their health first, the AMA says.

With the launch this week of the DRS4DRS platform, doctors and medical students are being reminded to reach out for help, and look out for their colleagues by seeking appropriate health services.

Doctors using the new platform need not be worried about being reported to the MBA, according to the website.

“The MBA recognises that DRS4DRS needs to operate separately from regulatory bodies, so that we can confidentially support doctors without fear of reporting,” it states.

The service is run by the DrHS (Doctors’ Health Services), which independently administers health programs on behalf of the AMA, at an arm’s length from the MBA and AHPRA.

The website is an all-in-one resource which includes:

• 24-7 support services for doctors only
• Ways to find confidential and independent health advice and referral services, as a doctor
• Advice on how to find a GP
• Materials for treating doctors who are seeing doctors as patients
• Support groups and events for doctors
• Strategies to help manage personal health alongside a busy professional life

GPs are considered to be in a unique position to provide first-line care to their medical colleagues through initiatives like DRS4DRS, says Mr David Brennan, chair of the DrHS.

“There are online modules for treating-doctors which have insights into what it means to treat another doctor and how you can become more effective at doing so,” he said. “It means GPs can easily find resources that are orientated towards prevention but also intervention.”

In addition, there was a section of the website dedicated to helping a treating-doctor cope in the unfortunate event of a patient-doctor suicide.

The main focus, however, was about keeping the medical profession healthy, Mr Brennan said.

“Not only do healthy doctors make better doctors, but it also contributes to better patient outcomes,” he said.

There’s been a growing social acceptance, in recent years, that doctors may have more difficulty accessing health services than the general public, which can sometimes fuel a tendency for clinicians to self-diagnose and self-prescribe.

In an effort to reduce the trend of self-prescribing, a number of medical colleges were now encouraging their members to have their own regular GP, Mr Brennan said.

The Australasian College of Sport and Exercise Physicians does this by offering CPD points for members who visit their GP for an annual check-up.

You can find out more and explore the DRS4DRS platform here.