Michigan institutes new implicit bias training rules for licensed health professionals – State of Reform

Michigan health care professionals are now required to complete training on implicit bias, reducing disparities, and current research as part of acquiring or renewing their license.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) said these requirements will apply to new applicants and those renewing existing licenses or registrations. These new requirements were effective beginning on June 1st, 2022.

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Two years ago, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Directive 2020-07, which directed LARA to promulgate rules incorporating implicit bias training for health care professionals. The directive started as a recommendation from the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities and took the whole 2 years to come to fruition.

“LARA is proud to support our health care professionals in delivering the highest quality of care to all patients,” said Orlene Hawks, LARA Director. “While technical knowledge and clinical skills should always be held to a high standard, it is equally important that health professionals understand the ways in which they view and interact with the communities they serve. As a result of this new training requirement, we anticipate improvements in the delivery of care, stronger relationships with communities, and ultimately better health outcomes.”

This training consists of a variety of topics from implicit bias, health equity, and how to incorporate strategies to reduce disparities, including the administration of self-assessments. The training must also include strategies to remedy the negative impact on bias, understanding how it impacts judgment, perception, and actions, and discussion around current research on the effects of implicit bias.

Starting June 1st, new applicants for health care licensure or registration will need to complete 2 hours of training, whereas renewing existing licenses or registrations will need at least 1 hour of training per licensed year. For example, physicians who will be renewing in 2025 will need at least 3 hours of implicit bias training to complete their license.

These new rules affect 400,000 licensed professionals in the state to reduce racial health disparities and improve health outcomes through “practical education.”

“Today’s new training guidelines will help us mitigate the impacts of implicit bias and ensure every patient in Michigan receives the best possible care,” Whitmer said. “These rules will save lives and improve health outcomes for generations of Michiganders, especially those who have been historically and systemically discriminated against. They will make Michigan safer, healthier, and more just.”

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) expressed support for the new rules. Brian Peters, CEO of MHA, said the training is the next step in Michigan’s long history of safety and quality improvement work led by hospitals. He also said many hospitals in the state are already requiring this type of training for their employees.

“Yes, we might require some time for our clinicians or employees to do this training,” Peters said. “But if we avoid rehospitalizations, if we avoid complications that require an extended hospital stay, we’re going to save them time on the back end by having better outcomes.”

In a rush to fill the demand for these trainings, the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) said many professional medical education companies claim to meet the new LARA requirements, but most do not. MSMS said they are contracted with LARA to request an official mechanism for these organizations to be reported and for LARA to provide outreach notifying them of their non-compliance.

“Physicians who in good faith completed implicit bias content [should] not be penalized for inaccurate marketing [by professional medical education companies],” said an MSMS press release.

MSMS said they are willing to review certain courses for health care professionals to make sure they are compliant with the new rules.

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