Project Description

The AMA adopted policies that address both medical racism and implicit bias and that call on social media companies to address misinformation.

By Sara Heath

– The American Medical Association has adopted policies that take yet another hard stance against medical racism. The policies set to guide healthcare organizations in tamping down on discrimination, bias and abuse, and prejudice or microaggressions, the organization announced at its Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.

AMA said healthcare organizations should create policies that would facilitate openness, inclusion, and diversity. Additionally, individual organizational policies should address incidents of racism in medicine.

That will include clearly defining racism or implicit bias in medicine and making those policies clear to all staff and patients. Organizations should also define its own practice or hospital commitment to anti-racism in medicine, establish cultural competency and anti-racism training for staff, and create a formal protocol for both reporting and corrective action in incidents of medical racism.

“Systemic racism in medicine is the most serious barrier to the advancement of health equity and appropriate medical care,” Willarda V. Edwards, MD, MBA, an AMA board member, said in a statement. “Today’s actions by the House of Delegates will inform the AMA’s active work to proactively identify, prevent, and eliminate racism and will help the AMA guide health care organizations in efforts to adopt workplace policies that promote positive cultural transformation and address the root cause of racial health inequities.”

More specifically, healthcare organizations need to determine to whom these policies apply: staff, clinicians, patients, contractors, vendors, or others who might be associated with the provider. Additionally, organizations should define certain behaviors that constitute racism or discrimination in healthcare, specific action steps for those experiencing discrimination, and create policies for investigating and acting upon situations of discrimination. This process should be private, AMA said.

The physician group also said healthcare organizations need to take every complaint seriously and act upon them immediately, all the while ensuring complainants have a comfortable work environment. All affected parties need to be notified of an organization’s ultimate decision in enforcing an incident of discrimination, AMA added.

Finally, healthcare organizations need to outline expectations and requirements for implicit bias, cultural competency, and anti-racism and anti-discrimination training.

These policies come as the AMA doubles down on its commitments to anti-racism in medicine. In the past year, the trade organization has asserted discrimination has no place in medicine, with AMA most recently recanting its own racist missteps throughout organization history.

This also comes following the resignation of Journal of the American Medical Association’s editor in chief, under whose watch a tweet and a podcast episode questioning the existence of institutional racism in medicine went live.

In addition to new policies regarding structural racism in medicine, AMA also made statements about misinformation on social media websites, particularly urging leadership on those websites to crack down on the spread of false medical information. This comes after data revealed Facebook misinformation spread quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have carried with it negative public health implications.

“With more and more patients relying on social media for information – including medical information – dangerous misinformation about vaccines and public health issues poses a serious risk to patient health,” Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, AMA trustee, said in a separate statement.

During discussions among the House of Delegates, AMA representatives reported the time they spend with patients to debunk misinformation. Although patient education is a key part of a provider’s job, it is not beyond the scope of imagination that blatant misinformation should be erased from public websites.

“We strongly urge social media companies to further bolster their content moderation of medical and public health information, including enhanced content monitoring, augmentation of recommendation engines focused on false information, and stronger integration of verified health information,” Fryhofer said.