Excerpt via Medical Economics
…In Virginia, physicians have a new level of confidentiality set in law. The Medical Society of Virginia (MSV) advocated for creation of the SafeHaven program, which has a partnership with a physician-focused national behavior health consulting practice.
Melina Davis, MSV executive vice president and CEO, agrees physicians are reluctant to seek counseling because if they must reveal it, they fear they could lose licenses, have referral networks dry up, or get fired. But physicians enrolling in SafeHaven gain legal privilege that forbids release of any records, reports or communications originating in the program — even in malpractice lawsuits, barring a court order that meets a high standard of proof, according to MSV.
State lawmakers unanimously approved the program in March 2020. It was coincidental timing with the spread of COVID-19, but the pandemic spurred the program’s beginning and physician enrollment started in July 2020. State lawmakers were unanimous a year later in expanding SafeHaven for physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists and students of those protected professions.
Now SafeHaven has 4,400 members, with 48% using the program and 17% in coaching and counseling. Davis argues that rate is unprecedented for physician usage of employer-sponsored wellness programs in the United States. “It’s unprecedented because they feel safe,” she says.
SafeHaven will expand into Michigan and MSV wants to serve as a consultant to take the program across the country. Primary care physicians can do their part by advocating for the same legal protection in every state, Davis says.
“More people need to be asking for this,” Davis says. “More people need to be advocating that it be a normal part of your legal system and your service system for health care workers. They need it, they deserve and it’s here. It makes a big difference.”