MMS Website Service Restored

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

The MMS website is now back in operation, after a brief “downtime” period for the installation of a new member database. Members please note that the first time you log into the website, you will be required to reconfirm your password.  You may enter the same password you are currently using, and you will be asked to reconfirm it OR you may enter a new password, and you will likewise be asked to confirm it. This process should take less than one minute.  After logging in, you may continue to use the rest of the site.

If you have any questions, or if you need assistance, please contact our Customer Service Department by phone at 800-843-6356 or by e-mail at

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this period.

MMS 2017 State of the State’s Health Care Leadership Forum: The Election’s Impact on Health Care?

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Policy, Health Reform, State of State Forum on October 20th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

The outcome of the national election on November 8 and its potential to shape – either positively or negatively — the healthcare agenda in Washington and locally in years to come was on the minds of the moderators and presenters as they addressed nearly 150 attendees at MMS’s 17th annual State of the State’s Healthcare Leadership Forum held at MMS headquarters on October 19.

Moderators James Braude and Margery Eagan, co-hosts of WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, noted during opening remarks that the-white-house-at-dc-thconstructive discussions of healthcare have been largely absent from the presidential debates and during most national campaign appearances by both candidates. Braude said that the candidates seemed bent to “shed blood” rather than to engage in vigorous fisticuffs about how to control the costs of prescription medicines, for example, or how to improve the Affordable Care Act. Yet many voters, if not most, he observed, collectively worry about these issues.

Ray Campbell, the newly appointed executive director of the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), said that Massachusetts remains a “bright spot” in this dark national political landscape. In the Bay State, he emphasized, “we have strong bi-partisan support that has transcended party lines” when it comes to providing quality health care for all citizens. Unlike the negative rhetoric that has surface nationally during election-year discussions of Obamacare, Campbell remarked, “there is no talk of a repeal or replacement of Massachusetts’ healthcare reform.” Campbell further noted that CHIA and other state agencies must continue to aggregate data and to use it as fodder to better manage spending, which this year is at a 4.1 percent increase, exceeding the previous year’s benchmarks. “We are exploring ways to do a better job to use the data we collect to shed a light on spending in Massachusetts,” he said, “so we can institute statewide efforts to better control it.”

capitol-dcKate Walsh, president and chief executive officer at Boston Medical Center (BMC), said that while BMC has grown “out of adolescence” by celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, “we still need to improve so we can fulfill our mission, namely to provide ‘exceptional care without exception.’” Toward that end, Walsh said, “we have to earn our patients’ trust and invest in a rigorous quality improvement agenda.” Tailoring programs at the hospital to respond to patients’ needs, such as BMC’s program to treat opioid use and abuse, is just one example of how Walsh envisions BMC to be “part of the solution do to a better job because our patients deserve it.” The challenge facing healthcare institutions in Massachusetts is to “remove barriers” and to “empower patients” to take firmer control of their health.

Michael Dowling, president and chief executive officer of Northwell Health, a conglomerate of 21 hospitals and over 450 patient facilities and physician practices in New York and New Jersey, echoed this theme of empowerment, urging the audience to define it as a movement not just for patients but also for health care providers. “Too often,” Dowling said, “we as health care professionals play the victim. We must take pride in our work, to be optimistic, and face the reality that our business is changing. We must not become prisoners of the past, we must embrace change. One way of doing this is by becoming leaders in the digital world. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming “Uber-ized,” as someone else will find a way of doing what we do better.” Toward this end, Dowling encouraged his listeners to adapt to the needs of the consumer/patient who, he said, are increasingly more educated, with more access to technology than ever before. He concluded: “We must ask ourselves what skills we will need in the next 5 to 10 years, since our world is always changing, and health care is in a transformative stage.”

Robert J. Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health, brought the forum full circle by sharing research he and his colleagues have conducted on the 2016 election, revealing strong partisan views with regards to health policy. Harvard researchers asked, “How Has the ACA Impacted the Country?” They found that 66 percent of Democrats responded that Obamacare has had a positive impact, while 72 percent of Republicans responded by saying ACA has a negative impact. Overall, he noted, healthcare surfaced as the third most important policy issue nationally, with the economy/jobs ranking as the primary issues, and terrorism/national security the secondary issues of importance. Blendon concluded that we will all have to wait for the outcome of the impending election to determine where healthcare emerges in our nation’s priorities.  He concluded, “Major changes in health policy only occur when one party holds the presidency and both houses of Congress.”

–Robert Israel





MMS Website Inaccessible from 6 – 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 20

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20th, 2016 by Will Oliver – Be the first to comment

Due to the installation of a new member database system, the Massachusetts Medical Society’s website will temporarily be inaccessible from approximately 6-9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20.

After 9:00 a.m., the website will once again be accessible.

MMS Responds to TV Ad on Question 4

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

The Yes on 4 group advocating for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the Commonwealth has announced a television ad featuring a physician urging passing of the referendum.  In response,  Dr. James Gessner, President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, has issued the following statement:

“The television ad represents one physician’s perspective and is attempting to confuse the recreational marijuana issue with medical marijuana, which is governed by strict regulations set down by the Department of Public Health.  Question 4 lacks any public health oversight of recreational marijuana and has no provision for health education, prevention, or treatment programs.   The Massachusetts Medical Society and 10 state physician specialty societies believe Question 4 would result in bad public health policy, and have stated their overwhelming opposition to the ballot question because of the multiple public health dangers it presents: the risk of addiction, impaired cognition, and damage to the developing brains of adolescents.”

James S. Gessner, M.D.
October 17, 2016

Related: The President’s Podium: The Real Issue of Question 4 


The President’s Podium: The Real Issue of Question 4

Posted in Health, Health Policy, Public Health on October 12th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

by James S. Gessner, M.D., President, Massachusetts Medical Society

Citizens thinking about how to vote on Ballot Question 4 – whether or not to legalize recreational marijuana – should ask some important questions before casting their ballot.

How would our health and safety, and especially that of our children, be affected should recreational Dr. James S. Gessner, MMS President '16-'17_editedmarijuana become legal?  What affect will it have on our highway and occupational safety?  Should Massachusetts allow ready access to a substance with a potential for addiction when we are fighting an epidemic of opioid abuse that is already disrupting and destroying too many lives?

These are critical questions, because this referendum, more than anything else, is really about public health and safety.

Marijuana is not harmless. Its main ingredient – tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC) – is a mind-altering substance, and the amount of THC has been increasing steadily over the years. The THC content in marijuana today is four times stronger than it was in the 1980s.

We know that a risk of addiction exists with marijuana. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately 9 percent of those who use marijuana will become addicted. The rate jumps to 17 percent, or about 1 in 6, for those starting to use it in their teens and rises to 25–50 percent among daily users.

We also know its use contributes to cognitive impairment, presents a risk during pregnancy, poses a threat to highway and occupational safety, and can damage the developing brains of adolescents – the last being one of marijuana’s most troubling effects.

A 2014 article in the New England Journal of Medicine by NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow and her colleagues reviewed the current state of the science on the adverse health effects of recreational marijuana. Here is part of what they concluded:

Marijuana use has been associated with substantial adverse effects, some of which have been             determined with a high level of confidence…. As policy shifts toward legalization of marijuana, it is   reasonable and probably prudent to hypothesize that its use will increase and that, by extension, so will the number of persons for whom there will be negative health consequences.

In summary: the legalization of marijuana will lead to more marijuana use and more use will lead to more people with poorer health.

Physicians are especially concerned about the impact of this law on children and adolescents, despite a proposed ban on sales to anyone under 21.  An age restriction doesn’t work with tobacco and alcohol; it won’t work with marijuana. In Colorado, where legalization occurred in 2012, the state has seen an increase in marijuana use by youth 12-17 that is now 56 percent higher than the national average.

Adding to the concern is that teen perception of the risks of marijuana has decreased over the past decade, largely due to efforts to legalize medical and recreational marijuana.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that increasing the availability of marijuana for adults, regardless of restrictions, expands access for youth and persuades them that it’s not dangerous – and that’s a wrong message to send to our young people.

Legalization will also likely to lead to greater danger on our highways, because the skills needed for driving – alertness, concentration, coordination, reaction time – are impaired with marijuana use.  In Washington state, where voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012, the number of fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in one year, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Colorado has likewise seen a jump – 48 percent – in marijuana-related traffic deaths.

Those are compelling reasons against legalization. But the ballot question itself gives us more reasons to vote no on Question 4.

First, the referendum permits the sale of marijuana edibles, such as cookies, candies, snack foods, and drinks, which are especially appealing to children.

Second, it lacks any provision for public health oversight or authority in the development of regulations that would guide implementation of the law. And third, it has no allowance for any revenue from the sale of the drug to be earmarked for health education, prevention, or treatment programs.  These are serious failings.

A careful read of this ballot question reveals that this was created by and for the marijuana industry, without regard for public health in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and 10 physician specialty groups, representing a wide variety of medical specialties, including pediatrics, primary care, emergency medicine, obstetrics, and psychiatry, have stated their opposition to Question 4 for the reasons listed above.

We think preventing possible addiction, guarding our public health and safety, and protecting children and adolescents are far more important and valuable than the commercialization of marijuana and the “recreational” use of a substance capable of causing harm. We hope our patients think so, too.

The President’s Podium appears periodically on the MMS blog, offering Dr. Gessner’s commentary on a range of issues in health and medicine.  Versions of the above have been distributed to newspapers across the Commonwealth for publication as commentary. 




Update: Opioid Education Surpasses 20,000 Courses

Posted in Board of Medicine, Drug Abuse, opioids on October 7th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

RXMonitoringOne of the major efforts MMS has engaged in to address the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth has been prescriber education.  Our Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication Guidelines, developed by the MMS Task Force on Opioid Therapy and Physician Communication and issued in May of 2015, laid the groundwork in providing guidance to physicians in prescribing opioids to patients.  Those guidelines have been adopted by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine and incorporated into its comprehensive advisory to physicians on prescribing issues and practices.

Another major contribution by MMS in addressing the epidemic has been the offer of free continuing medical education courses in opioids and pain management for all prescribers. That effort also began in May of last year. A total of 18 courses and modules are available.

A previous blog post in August has discussed how this activity is having a positive impact, helping to reduce opioid prescribing rates across the Commonwealth.  Three separate studies, released in June, July, and August, have catalogued a decline in prescribing rates.

MMS today can report that since the offer of free courses began on May 26, 2015, the number of courses taken has surpassed 20,000.  As of October 7, a total of 20,249 courses have been taken by 7,084 individuals.

October Physician Focus: Telemedicine

Posted in behavioral health, Health, Health IT, Physician Focus, Primary Care on September 30th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Be the first to comment

Technology has been rapidly changing the practice of medicine, and one of the fastest growing areas is telemedicine, using such means as video platforms, text messaging, patient portals, and health “apps” that permit communication between physician and patient.

From left: Dr. Dale Magee, Dr. Adam Licurse, Dr. Steven Locke

From left: Dr. Dale Magee, Dr. Adam Licurse, Dr. Steven Lockepatient.

The October edition of Physician Focus takes a look at this emerging area of medicine with Adam Licurse, M.D., a primary care physician and Associate Medical Director of Brigham and Women’s Physicians Organization and Partners Population Health Management, and psychiatrist Steven Locke, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of iHope Network and member of the MMS Committee on Information Technology.  Hosting this edition is Dale Magee, M.D., a past president of MMS.

The discussion examines the impact of telemedicine on physicians and patients, its advantages and shortcomings, how the field of mental health has acted as a pioneer in the field, how it can help to ease the stigma that prevent patients from getting care, and the concerns clinicians still have with the application of telemedicine in patient care.

Physician Focus is distributed to public access television stations throughout Massachusetts, reaching residents in more than 275 cities and towns. It is also available online at, and on YouTube.

September Physician Focus: The Misconceptions of Obesity

Posted in Physician Focus, Public Health on September 1st, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on September Physician Focus: The Misconceptions of Obesity

Despite enormous attention and multiple programs created to reduce the condition, obesity remains prevalent in the U.S. with more than a third of the population considered obese.  Conventional wisdom has thought of obesity as primarily a lifestyle issue, with people eating too much and not getting enough physical exercise.  New research, however, is discovering that obesity is much more complex than first thought.

From left: Dr. Dale Magee, Dr. Scott Butsch, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford

From left: Dr. Dale Magee, Dr. Scott Butsch, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford

The September edition of Physician Focus examines the many other factors contributing to obesity and overweight with two physicians from the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center, Scott W. Butsch, M.D. and Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., both members of the Society’s Committee on Nutrition and Physical Activity.  Hosting this edition is MMS Past President Dale Magee, M.D.

Among the topics of conversation are the importance of changing one’s diet to healthier foods, the role of the body’s fat cells in obesity; how ‘gut bacteria’ affects weight; and how such factors as sleep, stress, and medications can contribute to obesity.

Physician Focus is distributed to public access television stations throughout Massachusetts, reaching residents in more than 275 cities and towns. It is also available online at, and on YouTube.

MMS Prescriber Education: 17,063 courses, 5,905 individuals

Posted in Department of Public Health, Drug Abuse, opioids on August 5th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on MMS Prescriber Education: 17,063 courses, 5,905 individuals

MMS has engaged in many efforts to address the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth, from creating prescribing guidelines to public information campaigns for patients.  One of the major contributions of the Society – and one of the critical steps in alleviating the crisis as MMS President James S. Gessner, M.D. has noted — has been prescriber education.

MMS began offering free continuing medical education courses in opioids and pain management to all RXMonitoringprescribers beginning in May of last year, and demand for the courses has been high.

Over the 14-month period from May 26, 2015, when the free courses were first offered, through August 1, 2016, a total of 17,063 courses have been completed by 5,905 individuals. Currently, 18 courses are offered.

The courses appear to be having a positive impact, as multiple studies show that opioid prescribing has declined significantly in the state.

A study by athenahealth showed that the number of patients in Massachusetts who were prescribed opioids between the first and second quarter of 2016 dropped 14 percent, compared to an 8 percent decline for the rest of the nation.  Another study, released in June by the Cambridge-based Workers Compensation Research Institute, recorded decreases in the amount of opioids prescribed per worker’s compensations claims in the Commonwealth as well as many other states.

Finally, a Massachusetts Department of Public Health report, issued on August 3, noted that data from the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring program showed that the total number of opioid Schedule II prescriptions and the number of individuals receiving Schedule II prescriptions were both at their lowest levels since the first quarter of 2015.  DPH said that the number of individuals who received one or more prescriptions for opioids dropped 16 percent from the first quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2016.

Despite the decline in prescription medications, deaths from opioid overdoses continue to rise, fueled by the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.  DPH reported that 66 percent of confirmed opioid-related overdoses deaths so far in 2016 involved fentanyl, an increase over  2015, when the rate was 57 percent.

Massachusetts Medical Society States Support of Governor Baker’s Proposal for Lyme Disease Treatment

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29th, 2016 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on Massachusetts Medical Society States Support of Governor Baker’s Proposal for Lyme Disease Treatment

MMS President James S. Gessner, M.D. today issued a statement of support for Governor Charlie Baker’s alternative proposal for the treatment of patients with Lyme disease.

“The Massachusetts Medical Society is firmly in support of the Governor’s initiative to provide insurance coverage for the treatment of patients with Lyme disease,” said Dr. Gessner.

“Public health officials have determined that Lyme disease is endemic throughout the Commonwealth,” Dr. Gessner added, “so much so that the state has the fourth highest incidence of Lyme disease in the nation.  It is imperative that we provide comprehensive care for those affected, and the Governor is attempting to do just that.”

The Governor’s bill, filed Thursday, would require private health insurers, nonprofit hospitals, and health maintenance organizations to cover the costs of medically appropriate and clinically proven treatments for Lyme disease equal to the coverage that the state’s Medicaid program provides.  That requirement would ensure needed treatment for patients with the condition.

Dr. Gessner added that he is gratified that the Governor acknowledges that his bill would provide coverage only for evidenced-based therapies that have proven to be clinically effective and that physicians of all specialties would be able to prescribe treatment when determined to be medically necessary.