The American Medical Association will debut its physician accreditation program in New Jersey -- the same state whose medical society recently called on AMA leaders to resign over the Sunbeam flap.
But those in charge of the program say they don't think lingering anger over the controversial licensing agreement with the appliance maker will keep New Jersey's 20,000 physicians from signing up. Physician participation is critical to a successful launch.
As an incentive, it will be free to physicians who sign up in the first 90 days. After that, they will pay $150 or $100 if they are members of the AMA or the Medical Society of New Jersey.
NYLCare Health Plans of the Atlantic agreed to be the first health plan to require its physicians to participate in the American Medical Accreditation Program. NYLCare has 7,000 physicians in its New Jersey network.
The New Jersey Hospital Association offered a statement of support.
Through AMAP, the AMA and the state medical society will sell physician credentialing data to health plans and hospitals for about $200 apiece. The effort is intended to eliminate duplicative forms and inspections of physician offices, both of which have exploded in the era of managed care.
AMAP also will offer a seal of approval to physicians who meet quality standards (May 26, p. 2).
The Medical Review and Accrediting Council, a subsidiary of the Medical Society of New Jersey, has been working with the AMA to bring AMAP to the state for the past year. The state society previously had been working on starting a similar program.
The AMA had expected to launch AMAP over the summer, but it took longer than anticipated to arrange contracts with companies that will collect data and conduct site visits, officials said.
In October the medical society voted to offer a resolution at the AMA's December House of Delegates meeting demanding the resignation of AMA board Chairman Thomas Reardon, M.D., and Executive Vice President P. John Seward, M.D., over their role in a licensing agreement the AMA signed with Delray Beach, Fla.-based Sunbeam Corp.
Seward and Reardon, as well as the rest of the AMA board, contend they were not fully informed of the nature of the transaction, which gave the association royalties based on the sale of Sunbeam products.
Four AMA executives, including Chief Operating Officer Kenneth Monroe and General Counsel Kirk Johnson, resigned in the wake of the incident.
Joseph Sokolowski, M.D., chair of the Medical Review and Accrediting Council, said the AMA and the state society share the same goals and values regarding accreditation. He said he does not think the Sunbeam controversy will tarnish AMAP.
"I think that our membership regards these as entirely separate issues," Sokolowski said.
AMA Vice Chairman Randolph Smoak Jr., M.D., who heads the AMAP governing body, agreed.
"The AMA recognized that some of its staff had (acted) improperly. We believe that to the great majority of physicians across the country, that action has been satisfactory," Smoak said.
The AMA intends to unveil AMAP in the Washington and Maryland market in early 1998, Smoak said.
AMAP faces competition from various state and county medical societies, private firms and hospital associations that are starting credentialing programs.
The latest was announced last week by the Greater New York Hospital Association and a partnership of the Medical Society of the State of New York and the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co. They formed a joint venture company called PIX, or Professional Information Exchange, expected to start credentialing in early 1998.
PIX will credential physicians according to New York state Medicaid managed-care requirements as well as those of the National Committee on Quality Assurance.
PIX was sparked by an explosion of health plan credentialing in the state under the NCQA and by the growth of hospital networks, which has led to multiple hospital privileges for physicians, said Lee Perlman, executive vice president of GNYHA Ventures, a subsidiary of the hospital association.
Hospitals "are very frustrated with their current processes," Perlman said. "They know this is anachronistic, and they want to join the bandwagon."